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MALTA — IVCC men’s basketball coach Tommy Canale knew this day was coming. He just hoped it wouldn’t be so soon.
The Eagles had their season ended Thursday night with an 87-82 loss to Kishwaukee in the NJCAA Division II Region IV quarterfinals.
With that came the end of the IVCC careers of St. Bede graduate Alec Schwab and Princeton alumnus Michael Murray.
“I’m very disappointed that (the season’s) over,” Canale said. “I just don’t know how I’m personally going to handle not being able to coach Alec and Michael again. I was hoping this day wouldn’t come, but it’s here and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. It’s going to be hard.”
Schwab and Murray — who Canale calls “the best two kids I’ve gotten out of the area” — have been IVCC’s stars the past two seasons.
Schwab was a First-Team All-Arrowhead Conference selection this season, while Murray was voted to the second team.
“They are the best duo I’ve ever coached,” Canale said. “They are two of the nicest kids I’ve ever coached. I’m going to miss all my sophomores. … There’s something special about Michael and Alec.
“They will not be replaced. Somebody asked me, ‘Next year, how are you going to replace them?’ You’re not going to replace them. Ask me three years down the road. You don’t (replace them). You have to change everything because what we had is not ever going to happen again here.”
Schwab capped his IVCC career with a game-high 24 points and five steals.
Murray, meanwhile, had his career ended prematurely when he was injured with 7:56 left after scoring 14 points and grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
Kishwaukee’s Kaylor Zimmermann drove the lane and knocked Murray over en route to a basket and a blocking call on Murray.
Murray banged the back of his head on the floor, causing a gash.
Paramedics put him on a backboard and took him to a hospital.
When the game was resumed after more than a half hour delay, Zimmerman drained the free throw to put the Kougars up 68-60.
Less than 30 seconds later, IVCC’s Corey McCrary fouled out. Still, the Eagles rallied.
JoVonn Griffin hit a pair of free throws and La Salle-Peru graduate Stephen Christopherson drained a 3-pointer on IVCC’s next possession to pull the Eagles within two at 69-67.
Griffin kept it a two-point game with a drive to the basket, and after Kishwaukee went up four, Schwab split a pair of free throws to make it 73-70 with 5:25 left.
On IVCC’s next possession, Griffin fouled out when he was whistled for a charge. With three key players out, Canale turned to the bench and put Mendota alumnus Ross Arteaga at point guard.
He immediately delivered with a three-point play to tie the game with 4:09 left, and Christopherson sank another 3-pointer to give IVCC a 76-75 lead with 2:46 remaining.
Zimmerman responded with a 3-pointer for Kishwaukee and the Kougars led the rest of the way.
“I thought the kids played hard and left it on the floor,” Canale said. “We battled back from eight back with eight minutes to go and got a lead. Then they hit a couple good shots and ours didn’t go down. It changes quickly.”
Griffin finished with 14 points, Christopherson scored 12 points and McCrary added 10 points, four assists and three steals.
Note: According to Canale, Murray’s head hit someone’s knee on the way to the floor. Murray had a CT scan and had a one-inch gash that required four staples to close, but he did not have a concussion.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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