Chaparrals Beat Wolves to Advance in NJCAA Tournament

The College of DuPage men’s basketball team clinched against Joliet Junior College, advancing them to the NJCAA Region 4 Division III championship game against Madison College.

Claire Valenti, Sports Writer

The College of DuPage men’s basketball team stood tall Friday night at the Joliet Junior College Event Center, tearing up the court with steady rebounds. Although JJC fought to get close, even tying it early in the first half, COD never trailed. The Chaparrals beat the Wolves 84-80, advancing to the NJCAA Region 4 Division III finals.

“There was a really good effort by everybody who was on the court to rebound, making sure Joliet didn’t get a ton of second chances,” assistant men’s basketball coach Eric Garcia said. “I was really proud of our composure. We’ve faced a lot of adversity throughout the season, and when it comes to playoff basketball, anything could go awry at any second. Late in [the] game they were making a comeback, but we kept our composure throughout the whole battle, and as a coach [I’m] really happy about that.”

Sophomore forward Matt Elliot earned a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds. He also made two assists and one block.

Freshman guard Kam Gothard jumps up and leans back to dodge the Wolves player while taking a shot. (Rachel Wagner)

“We’re feeling good,” Elliot said. “The energy is there, everybody’s happy, and everybody’s ready for the next game. We’re excited for Sunday, and all in all, we’re pushing together.”

Sophomore guard Finn Walsh scored eight points with eight rebounds. He also led the team with eight assists and one steal.

“We rebounded the ball really well,” Walsh said. “We’re not the biggest team. We have make-shift bigs; guys who are usually guards are forced to rebound. I have a big role rebounding; all of our guards rebound. We shared the ball well today too.”

Sophomore guard Drew Gaston racked up 25 points with seven rebounds. He said he was able to hit a surplus of shots through good passes.

“We played all-around good basketball,” Gaston said. “I was hot in the first half. My teammates found me, and I was just able to keep hitting shots.”

Freshman guard Kam Gothard scored eight points with four rebounds. He also made two steals and one assist.

“We had energy all around,” Gothard said. “[We had] great defense, great hustle on that side of the ball. We took some good, smart shots, but in the second half we got a little sloppy; overall it was a great game and a great team win.”

Freshman guard Derome White scored seven points with three rebounds. He also made one assist. (Rachel Wagner)

Freshman guard Alijah Nelson earned eight points with three assists before fouling out in the second half.

“We came out and punched them in the face early,” Nelson said. “I think we were playing fast, playing hard, playing good defense, and we were running our offense the way we were supposed to. We [relaxed] towards the end of the game, but we came out hard, and that was big because we haven’t really been doing that all season.”

The Chaparrals will battle for the NJCAA Region 4 Division III championship against the Madison College WolfPack at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 at the Joliet Junior College Event Center.