MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- Though the score may suggest otherwise, Wabash Valley College stayed in cruise control most of the night in their victory over Kankakee on Monday night.
The Warriors defeated Kankakee 88-82, but it never felt in doubt, with the Warriors boasting a double-digit lead for the majority of the game. WVC sophomore Jalen Newsom scored 18 points in the game to lead the Warriors, who slashed through the Kankakee defense.
To the Cavaliers (7-13) credit, they fought and battled with WVC in this game. Maintaining just a one-point lead at 33-32 with just under five minutes remaining in the half, the Warriors started to put it back together to extend their lead. Warrior sophomore Anthony Christian highlighted a two minute 8-0 run in favor of the Warriors. Christian scored five points over the stretch, including a couple tough boards on the offensive glass.
They used the run to enter the break with a 45-36 halftime lead and would really never look back. WVC sophomore Cam Gross highlighted the Warriors at the half with 11 points.
The Warriors used a 6-0 right out of the break to increase their lead to 15. Christian began the run with a slashing layup through the zone, followed by a slam by sophomore Levi Cook and a steal and transition layup for sophomore Josh Thomas.
With the lead continuously fluctuating, Newsom continued to hit some three-ball daggers for the Warriors. Newsom's prowess from deep caused Kankakee to over extend on their close out and foul him on a three ball and he added three 3-pointers in the second half. Newsom's daggers forced the lead to 14 and 17 at a couple points late in the second half. The sophomore guard finished the night 5-10 from behind the arc for 18 points.
"Jalen's a very good shooter but he's more than that, he does more than just shoot threes," coach Carpenter said. "His defense has gotten better, he's rebounding more, going off the dribble some too. Just have to get him to come out of his shell a little bit and not be as quiet. Great kid, goes to class, good student, he was a huge spark and led us in scoring tonight, 18 points off the bench. We needed that, we knew this team was going to play the zone quite a bit and him and Justin Boyd, some of these guys have to be able to knock down threes.
The Cavaliers reduced the deficit down to just five with a minute remaining, but it seemed to be a matter of too little, too late. One cause for concern was WVC's sloppiness down the stretch. The Warriors finished 4-8 from the line in the last minute of the game and had some trouble inbounding. Kankakee hit a 3-ball with under 20 seconds left to cut it down to five yet again and the Warriors tossed in a bad pass which the Cavaliers stole. Kankakee had a 3-point opportunity after the steal but hit back iron. Likely a massive sigh of relief for coach Carpenter, who received some late stress in a game the Warriors controlled.
Kankakee tried to throw a zone at WVC for much of the game, something that WVC head coach Mike Carpenter fully expected. The Warriors methodically attacked the zone, getting it in the middle of the defense to slash through it, as well as knocking down some threes.
For the game the Warriors finished 53.7 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent from behind the arc -- really impressive totals against a zone. Coach Carpenter fully expects that the Warriors will see a high dosage of zone for the remainder of the season, so it was a nice preparation for the Warriors.
Four Warriors finished the night in double-figures, Newsom's 18, Gross scoring 14, sophomore Chucky Wilson scoring 12 and Josh Thomas scoring 10 points. Their leading rebounder on the night was sophomore guard Zion Morgan. Morgan didn't play in the first half, but posted totals of five points, eight rebounds and five assists in the second half. Kankakee was led by Theo Owens' 24 points.
Coach Carpenter was able to dig deep into his bench tonight with 14 Warriors seeing playing time.
"At this point they're all good," coach Carpenter said. "It wasn't exactly pretty, but they're all good. 88-82 over a quality opponent in Kankakee. We got all of our guys action tonight for them to see playing time, we led by as many as 16 I believe. It served its purpose. We scheduled this game a long time ago, seeing where the schedule was, what we had coming up, what we had just went through, it was an opportunity to get some guys action and we were able to do that.
The Warriors (12-5) will travel to face perennial power Vincennes University in their next outing. The Trailblazers enter the game No. 4 in NJCAA Division I but appear vulnerable. Vincennes' last two games (1-1) have been decided by a total of four points, with most recently defeating SWIC 78-76. Coach Carpenter knows the magnitude of this game for his team.
"Big game always is, it's always a fun atmosphere, it's going to come down to a matter of our guys and how well they handle that environment," coach Carpenter said. "Can they slow them down, can they defend really good. They're well-coached, they play hard, they have good big guys so it should be a fun matchup. Hopefully we'll have some fans go over with us Wednesday night because it's a big game. We've been working on that for a while though, we've been working on Vincennes."
Tip-off for Wednesday at Vincennes is set for 6 p.m., or after the conclusion of the WVC-Vincennes women's basketball game slated for 4 p.m.