The IVCC basketball program had a tough time at home against Sauk Valley on Monday as both the men’s and women’s teams lost to its Arrowhead Conference rival.
Both squads were defeated by double digits as the men’s team lost 81-69 and the women’s team lost 63-45.
The Eagles have been in flux as coach Tommy Canale has had players coming and going from his roster since the season started.
The team he put on the court against Sauk was the sixth different team he has coached this season and six of the players who saw playing time recorded their first college minutes.
Even though his team was unsuccessful against the Skyhawks, he sees a lot of potential in his new team.
“I just told them they’re going to be dangerous come late February right when we need to,” Canale said. “We have nine games left in 18 days. I like the effort. They play hard and they listen. These kids just have to get accustomed to playing junior college basketball instead of high school.”
The women’s team may have lost in the first game of the doubleheader, but the Lady Eagles came away with a moral victory.
In the first meeting of the two teams on Jan. 9, IVCC was defeated by 38 points in what coach Tom Ptak called an embarrassing effort.
This time around, the Lady Eagles cut the margin by 20 points as they showed signs of improvement from the first encounter.
“I liked the effort and we didn’t give up — that’s very important,” Ptak said. “We tried to stay with our game plan in trying to be more deliberate. Some of the things we asked them to do on defense, they tried. That’s all you can do because we were out-manned tonight. They’re taller, bigger — that makes a difference.”
Sauk Valley 81, IVCC 69
The beginning of the game belonged to the Eagles’ Torrance Johnson.
The Hope Academy of Chicago alumnus displayed impressive low-post offensive maneuvers and scored on offensive rebounds to help the Eagles jump out to an early 17-13 lead.
Johnson scored 16 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 26 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
“Early — not so much late — but he set a tone inside and he played hard,” Canale said. “They did a nice job of making an adjustment and doubling from the other side. When he was trying to turn, he couldn’t turn and had nowhere to go. Anytime we can get him isolated, we felt pretty confident that he’d either make a good decision and get a foul or score.”
IVCC (9-11, 0-4 Arrowhead) and the Skyhawks (12-10, 4-3 Arrowhead) exchanged baskets until Sauk began to take advantage of its size and depth.
Sauk battled on the boards and began scoring in the paint to close the IVCC lead — the largest was six points — and take a 31-30 lead at the four-minute mark.
The exchanging baskets theme came back around as Sauk went into halftime with a 37-34 halftime lead.
“IVCC is a little shorthanded right now,” Sauk Valley coach Russ Damhoff said. “I know they lost a couple of guys (Lamont) Adair and (Corey) McCrary. I thought they played really hard and really scrappy. I didn’t think we rebounded well in the first half, but did a little better in the second half. We had a chance to break it open in the second half and we were kind of sloppy.”
Canale is trying to overcome the loss of sophomore point guard McCrary — who is out for the season after breaking his wrist Jan. 19 against Black Hawk East — with a committee of guards.
Against Sauk, the guards shot the Eagles back in the game after being down 64-48.
Freshman guard and Mendota alumnus Drake O’Donnell hit a 3-point basket and La Salle-Peru graduate Casey Huebbe, who finished with six points, hit a 3-pointer 43 seconds later.
The hot shooting continued as both shooters hit another 3-pointer apiece.
However, it wasn’t enough to pull out the win as Sauk hit enough free throws and timely mid-range jumpers to leave Oglesby with the victory.
O’Donnell hit three 3-pointers in the game to finish with nine points and freshman guard Mike McCray also scored nine points.
Sauk Valley 63, IVCC 45
The Lady Eagles knew what they could do and couldn’t do against Sauk defensively because of the Skyhawks’ size advantage.
However, with the 6-foot St. Bede alumna Kayla MacDavitt being the only true post player on the roster, IVCC (8-10, 2-3 AHC) didn’t have the man power to stop the Sauk offense.
“We knew we had matchup problems,” Ptak said. “I like playing man (defense), but we knew we couldn’t do that. We did it for a few situations and they ate us up. We put Kayla on (Jordan) Giddings to try to take her shot away and then they went right to the post with Mo (Dean).
“We don’t have two bigs to guard that and they’re probably the biggest team we’ve seen. They probably out-rebounded us two-to-one.”
Dean, a 6-foot-2 inch St. Bede alumna, Giddings (6-foot-1), Autumn Smith (6-0) and Paige Callow (6-0) either grabbed the rebound or drew enough attention to allow a Sauk guard to scoop them up.
Sauk (16-3, 5-1 Arrowhead) outrebounded the Lady Eagles 48-24.
“I consider myself very blessed. We got some great post players,” Sauk Valley coach Jedidiah Johnson said. “They’re not the easiest thing to find. Jordan Giddings and Mo Dean inside and bring another six foot (player) with Autumn Smith coming in off the bench. It’s kind of a unique situation.
“By far the best inside game I’ve dealt with. It allows you to do a lot more things with your team when they have to focus on doubling. If they don’t double, we score and it’s been that kind of year.”
The size of the Skyhawks frontcourt also made it hard for the Lady Eagles to score inside buckets.
IVCC finished the game with six 2-point field goals, while shooting 7-of-20 from the 3-point line.
Sophomore guard Jessica Jessen, a Marquette graduate, scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds. MacDavitt had eight points and seven rebounds, while Ottawa alumna Kara Kistenfeger added eight points.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.