By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Joe Shovlain likes to break up the basketball season into segments and set goals for his Clinton Community College team during each phase.
The current segment is the pre-holiday phase, and the coach set a goal of going 4-2 during that stretch of games.
The Cougars put that goal within reach Wednesday night when they avenged a November loss and defeated Black Hawk College of Moline, Ill., 74-69 at W.J. Yourd Gymnasium. The win left the Cougars (4-6) at 3-1 during the current segment that ends this weekend with a pair of games.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Shovlain said. “We dropped one Saturday (at Carl Sandburg College) that I feel was winnable.
“The guys came together well, and they’re playing together well,” Shovlain said. “We did what we had to do to win. Part of that is the players learning what they have to do to win.”
The first time the two teams played, the Cougars (4-6) got on a little roll in the first half and took a lead before everything collapsed. This time, they got the lead midway through the first half and never lost it. Black Hawk (5-8) did make things interesting, however.
The Cougars, who led by as many as 17 points, led 70-55 when Virshaun Grant (12 points) made a steal and layup with 6 minutes, 58 seconds remaining. But they went nearly six minutes without any more points, and the Braves scored 13 points in a row.
Black Hawk pulled within 70-68 when Deqwon Horn made the first of two free-throw attempts with 1:46 left. He missed the second attempt, but teammate Greg Kent — who moments earlier missed a pair of free throws — grabbed the rebound but missed a followup shot that would have tied the game.
“We made a comeback, but there were just too many silly mistakes,” Black Hawk coach Darren Bizarri said. “We did too many things to put ourselves in bad position.”
Shovlain claimed responsibility for the lull, saying he got too concerned with calls by the officials instead of the game at hand.
Charles Pemberton (10 points) ended Clinton’s drought when he was followed on a rebound follow shot and made a pair of free throws with 1:15 left.
DaShawn Banks made 1 of 2 free-throw attempts to bring Black Hawk within 72-69, but the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Pemberton reprised his heroics from moments earlier with two more free throws after he was fouled grabbing an offensive rebound with 39 seconds left. They were the final points of the game.
“And he’s got the flu,” Shovlain said. “We didn’t know if he would play.”
Xzavion Jones made it three Clinton starters scoring in double digits with 11 points, but the player with the biggest night came off the bench. BJ Bostic, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard from Prince of Peace led the Cougars with 17 points.
He took over the game after Black Hawks’s Jordan Schaller, a 6-6 freshman from Erie, Ill., scored six points as the Braves built an 8-0 lead, then added another bucket for a 10-2 lead.
“I was just trying to get down low, and the team was finding me in the paint,” Schaller said. “They play that zone, and we worked on a way to attack it.”
A 3-point basket by Hurt cut Black Hawk’s lead in half and started the Cougars’ comeback. They pulled even at 12 when Bostic drove the lane, spun and passed off to BeeJay Caleb for a basket inside with 15:11 left in the first half.
Cody Cooley gave Black Hawk one last lead when he dropped in a 3-pointer from the right corner with 14:57 left. Clinton got within 15-14 when Caleb hauled in a long pass from Grant and made a layup with 14:02 left.
Bostic then put Clinton on top with a 3-pointer from the left corner, and the Cougars never lost the lead.
“It was just being in the right place at the right time,” Bostic said. “My teammate came down the court and found me.”
Grant added a 3-pointer with 11:57 left to stretch the lead to 22-17. The Cougars increased the edge to seven on a putback by Pemberton and reached eight, 31-23, when Bostic delivered another 3-pointer, this time from the right corner.
The Braves whittled down the deficit, scoring the next six points, including a basket by Schaller that made it 31-29 with 4:29 left.
Once again, though, it was Bostic to the rescue.
He made two free throws, then intercepted a pass and sailed in for a dunk that made it 35-29 with 4:10 left.
The Cougars took a 41-36 lead into halftime, then opened the second half with a 14-4 run that pushed the lead to 15. Jones hit a pair of baskets in the run, one a 3-pointer.
The lead eventually reached 17, 64-47, when Grant scored on a transition layup with 13:18 left before Black Hawk started its late comeback.
But, the Cougars held on, and now they have a chance to complete their goal of going 4-2.
“We have a tough tournament Friday and Saturday,” Bostic said. “We wanted to go into it 3-1 — that was one of our goals.”
CLINTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE 74, BLACK HAWK COLLEGE 69
BLACK HAWK (5-8) — Greg Kent 2 2-4 6, Danny DeBacker 6 0-0 12, Cody Cooley 4 0-0 9, Jordan Schaller 10 0-0 20, Sheawn Bedford Jr. 1 2-4 4, Deqwon Horn 0 1-2 1, DaShawn Banks 2 1-3 5, Josh Russell 1 0-0 2, Mike Maffie 0 0-0 0, Heith Beach 2 0-0 6, Austin Long 0 0-0 0, Jared Kuban 2 0-0 4. Totals 28 6-13 69.
CLINTON (4-6) — Virshaun Grant 5 0-3 12, Richard Hurt 2 2-2 7, Xzavion Jones 5 0-0 11, Kimani Stevens 3 0-0 6, Charles Pemberton 3 4-7 10, BJ Bostic 6 2-2 17, James Randolph 3 1-1 7, Dane Barun 0 0-0 0, BeeJay Caleb 2 0-1 4. Totals 29 8-15 74.
Halftime — Clinton 41, Black Hawk 36. 3-point goals — Black Hawk 3 (Beach 2, Cooley); Clinton 7 (Bostic 3, Grant 2, Hurt, Jones). Total fouls — Black Hawk 14, Clinton 15. Fouled out — Caleb.