North Central Men Edge Illinois College for Tenth Win

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

Earning its fourth straight victory in a fight to the finish, the North Central College men's basketball team closed out its 2018 home schedule Saturday with a 67-63 triumph over the Illinois College Blueboys at Gregory Arena.

The Cardinals improved to 10-1 on the season after turning away a game effort by the visitors, emerging with the win only after coming through with clutch plays on both ends of the floor in the final seconds.

Trailing, 47-44, midway through the second half, North Central pulled in front after Connor Raridon fed Jack Bronec for a layup and sank a three-pointer on the fast break. Bronec followed with a dunk with 11:35 to play to give the Cardinals a 51-47 edge with 11:35 to play. The Blueboys (3-9) countered with four unanswered points to tie the score at 51-51, but North Central scored the next nine points to take the lead for good as Raridon scored in the paint, Aaron Jones knocked down a triple, Blaise Meredith came up with a steal and fed Matt Cappelletti for a layup, and Will Clausel converted a layup off a pass from Raridon.

Illinois College got itself back in contention one final time as Riley Mehrens drove the lane for a layup and Mason Speer came up with a steal and score to close the gap to 65-63 with under a minute on the clock. The Blueboys forced another turnover to give themselves an opportunity to tie or take the lead, but Meredith blocked Speer's layup attempt and Cappelletti was fouled grabbing the rebound.

Cappelletti missed the front end of the ensuing one-and-bonus, but collected his own rebound and was fouled once again. With 7.3 seconds to play, Cappelletti sank two charity shots to seal the victory.

Illinois College led by as many as six points in the first half after making six of its first 10 three-point attempts. The Cardinals closed the half with a 15-5 run, including seven points from Raridon and six from Meredith, to head into the break with a 35-31 edge.

Raridon was North Central's lone double-figure scorer, putting up a game-high 24 points, while also collecting six rebounds and five assists. Cappelletti and Meredith each scored nine points and Cappelletti also grabbed a game-high eight boards as the hosts owned a 35-26 rebounding advantage. 

Speer and Kane Wildermuth shared team-high scoring honors for the Blueboys with 12 points apiece.

The Cardinals travel to Las Vegas next week for the Classic, taking on Husson University (Maine) on Thursday and Ohio Northern University on Friday at the South Point Hotel and Events Center.