Cyclones men finally break through
A long drought is finally over.
A year ago, Moraine Valley College’s men and winning basketball were well acquainted with one another. The Cyclones, in fact, were successful often enough to reach the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championship game for the first time in school history.
That was then. This is now — just one win over 12 contests heading into last week’s action, a stretch dating back to Dec. 19. Included in the skid were seven losses in a row.
But that downward trend got reversed last Tuesday, when Moraine pocketed a 78-72 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference victory over McHenry College. The Scots had defeated the Cyclones in a Jan. 21 matchup.
This time, double-digit scoring from five players propelled Moraine. Kyle Ward led the quintet with 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, all team-high totals. Also contributing were Paulius Ostruskevicius (16 points), Des’nique Harris (11 points, six rebounds), Stagg alumnus Brett Kaiser (10 points, seven rebounds) and Denton Wallace (10 points).
No sooner had that win been banked than the Cyclones struck again. On Thursday, they avenged an earlier setback to Elgin College by notching an 82-68 triumph.
Moraine trailed by a deuce at halftime, but applied stronger defensive pressure after the break and gradually put some distance between itself and Elgin. Johnte Shannon (23 points) and Ward (18 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two blocks) were the headliners, but they didn’t have to go it alone.
Others aiding the Cyclones’ cause included Ostruskevicius (10 points, seven rebounds), Harris (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Wallace (eight point, five rebounds).
The Cyclones also enjoyed a prosperous week, and in neither of their two ISCC encounters did they get severely pushed.
Moraine’s initial victory was logged last Tuesday versus McHenry, which tumbled to a 77-39 defeat. The Cyclones were already in command by intermission, but they padded their 35-18 edge by hitting 5-of-6 3-pointers in the second half.
Just as happened with Moraine’s men in their clash with McHenry, the female Cyclones benefited from balanced scoring as five players tallied in double figures. Marist product Aileen Gorman (13 points, six steals, three assists) and Ashley Cunningham (12 points, seven rebounds, four assists) showed the way for Moraine, with help from Shavonne Lewis, Nariman Jaber and Evergreen Park grad Amber Hunter, each of whom delivered 10 points.
Jaber barely missed a triple-double as she augmented her offense with 10 rebounds and seven blocks. Her work in the latter category lifted her into the No. 3 position nationally in blocks per game within NJCAA Division II.
Elgin didn’t give the Cyclones much trouble on Thursday, either, as it absorbed a 71-52 loss. Playing some of its finest defense of the season, Moraine limited Elgin to 20 first-half points while constructing a 16-point advantage.
With a number of players again involving themselves offensively to a measurable degree, the Cyclones had no problem finishing off the win. Stagg alum Maggie Yandel totaled 14 points, seven steals and six rebounds in a solid all-around performance, and Gorman and Shepard grad Amanda Weiss backed her with 10 points apiece.
Just missing double digits were Jamilla Jones and Katie McGann, both of whom tossed in nine points. Jaber registered 10 rebounds and six blocks, and she increased her total rejections to 100. Jaber is four blocks away from eclipsing Moraine’s single-season record holder, Lisa Koschinitzki, who had 103 during the 1988-89 campaign.
Koschintzki’s ended her career record with 181. Two other players finished with at least 150: Rhiannon Howard, who had 154 between 2005-07, and LaVetta Mitchell, who rejected 151 opponents’ shots between 1987-89. Mitchell is also the Cyclones’ all-time scoring leader.