Early Challenges Set Up Chargers for Strong Finish to Season
Friday, March 17, 2017 11:33 AM
Galesburg, ILA challenging regular season schedule prepared the Carl Sandburg College men’s basketball team for the Region IV tournament. The Chargers just met one task they couldn’t conquer.
Sandburg last weekend appeared in the Region IV championship game for the second time in four seasons, but sixth-ranked South Suburban — which hadn’t lost on the floor all year — ended the Chargers’ postseason run with an 81-69 defeat.
“I thought we played a good game, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team,” Sandburg coach Ryan Twaddle said. “There’s a reason they hadn’t lost a game all year and are one of top teams in the country each season.”
The Chargers finished the year 18-15, but that record could be considered misleading. Sandburg’s schedule included nine NJCAA Division I opponents, including five in the opening weeks of the season.
“The results may not have shown up in the win-loss column, but those games helped us get better as a team,” Twaddle said. “It would be easy to schedule some lesser opponents, but we wanted those games early on to challenge us and force us to improve.”
It worked. The Chargers won five of six before facing South Suburban and didn’t trail at all in their first two games of the region tournament, highlighted by a 20-point rout of rival Black Hawk in the semifinals.
Sandburg will graduate seven sophomores and four starters — including All-Region IV and All-Arrowhead Conference pick Shane Maple (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) — but among its returners will be freshman Matt Wendling, the team’s third-leading scorer (13.0 per game) and top rebounder 5.3 per game) this season. Wendling closed the year strong, scoring in double figures in seven straight games and going 16 of 26 from 3-point range in the team’s last four contests.
“Matt’s a really talented player and a good piece to build around for next season, but we’re going to miss this sophomore group,” Twaddle said. “They worked hard and came to play every night. I know they’re disappointed we couldn’t find a way to get to nationals, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.”