Chaparrals Defeat Commodores to Become District Champions

The College of DuPage men’s basketball team won over Lorain County Community College to win the Great Lakes District Championship and advance to the NJCAA National Championship tournament.

Claire Valenti, Sports Writer

With a new energy and focus, the College of DuPage men’s basketball team kept the lead through the second half to secure the 82-70 win over the Commodores. In front of the packed crowd on Klaas Court, the Chaparrals brought home the Great Lakes District Championship. With this win, the team now advances to the NJCAA National Championship tournament.

The Chaparrals fought to keep up with Lorain County Community College Saturday afternoon through most of the first half, struggling to find their pace. The team was down by two points with three seconds left and seemed sluggish, but when sophomore guard Drew Gaston launched the ball from half court to make a buzzer-beating shot and take the lead, the team left the court ready to dominate in the second half.

“It’s just a great feeling; I’m so excited and happy for the guys,” head men’s basketball coach Kuhn said. “We got down early. [We haven’t] seen that pressure for a little bit, but I thought we made a great comeback in the first half to get ourselves back in the game. The second half we took the lead and controlled it. [The team’s] going to have an experience of a lifetime, and that’s what it’s about.”

Sophomore guard Drew Gaston launches the ball to make a buzzer-beating shot to put the Chaparrals in the lead going into the second half. (Rachel Wagner)

The Chaparrals are on a seven-game win streak, and have triumphed in 10 of their last 12 games. Assistant men’s basketball coach Eric Garcia said that no matter what team the Chaparrals face in the national championship tournament, they’re going to be prepared.

“[We’re going to prepare] like we always do; we’re going to practice this week, and we’re going to practice hard,” Garcia said. “We’re really prepared when it comes to scouting reports and matchups when going into it. We’re going to practice hard and wait for the party that announces who has what seed [in the tournament]. When we find out what team [we’re facing] we’re going to start prepping.”

Gaston racked up 24 points with four rebounds. He also led the team with six steals and made one assist.

“It was just a luck shot,” Gaston said. “I was shooting, and I couldn’t make a single shot before that. Then that one went in, and it gave me a lot of confidence going into the second half.”

Sophomore forward Matt Elliot earned a double-double, scoring 22 points with 10 rebounds. He also made two assists, one steal and led the team with six blocks,

“Towards the second half we brought more intensity, and we showed it on the floor,” Elliot said. “I think we defended very well, moved the ball very well, and all around it was a great [game].”

Sophomore forward Matt Elliot leaps to make a layup. (Rachel Wagner)

Freshman guard Alijah Nelson added 12 points with one rebound. He also made one assist and one steal.

“After the first half, we decided we were going to come out and play our game,” Nelson said. “[We weren’t going to] let them speed us up. [We started to] play defense and play offense the way we’re supposed to. When we’re playing our game and we’re clicking, I don’t think there’s too many teams that could beat us.”

Sophomore guard Finn Walsh scored 16 points with nine rebounds. He also led the team with seven assists and one steal.

“I was really looking forward to the feeling of winning,” Walsh said. “As soon as we won, we celebrated and then I came down thinking ‘I want to keep going; I want to win more.’ We’re very happy and grateful that we were able to get the win, but we’re hungry for way more. We’re not going to New York just to go on a vacation, this is a business trip.”

The Chaparrals will compete in the NJCAA national championship tournament between March 15-18 in Herkimer, N.Y.