Feb. 21, 2015- The North Central College Men’s basketball team took on North Park University in the season finale for the last spot in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament (CCIW). The Cardinals (18-7, 8-6 CCIW) came into the night with a one game lead in the conference standings over the Vikings (15-10, 6-8 CCIW) for the final spot. The previous meeting between these teams on Jan. 24 resulted in a 92-68 rout by the Vikings at North Park.
It was Senior Night and time to honor four seniors: Jack Burchett (Mokena, Ill.), a three-year starter who is averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds a game. Evan Fendley (Elmhurst, Ill.), a good three-point shooter (38%) who is a two-year role player for the Cardinals. Mike “Big Mike” Reinke (Wakesha, Wis.) is a four year player who had a career best 13 points and 8 rebounds last year against Illinois Tech. Charles Rosenberg (Palatine, Ill.) was North Central’s leading scorer with 17 points a game this season, shooting 54% for his career.
Gregory Arena was packed and the emotions were high on this Senior Night. The Vikings took advantage of the distraction, starting the game an 11-2 run in the first 4:32. The Vikings held the lead the entire first half, holding off the Cardinals in a back and forth affair until the half.
North Central got into the bonus just nine minutes into the game, but were unable to capitalize going just 6 for 13 from the free-throw line in the first half. The Cardinals battled back throughout the first half to reduce the Vikings lead to 36-34. Senior Jack Burchett was five for eight with 11 points to lead the Cardinals at half. Leading scorer in the CCIW Juwan Henry had 17 points in the first half to lead the Vikings.
The teams traded baskets for the first ten minutes of the second half. Kevin Honn hit back-to-back three pointers with 9:41 left in the second half to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 58-56.
Back-to-back blocks by the senior big men, Charles Rosenburg (six points and four blocks) and Jack Burchett were key to the 11-1 run that propelled the Cardinals into the lead. Brandon White scored three straight buckets off the bench to give the Cardinals a 69-64 lead with just over four minutes left.
The Vikings showed some hope in the second half, led by Henry’s tremendous 15-22 shooting, finishing with 34 points. Great team defense was too much down the stretch as the Cardinals held the Vikings to just one point over a four-minute stretch late in the game.
Free throws and a huge two-handed dunk by Jack Burchett gave the Cardinals the lead at 75-65 with just over a minute left to seal the game. Burchett finished with a team-high 21 points and 14 rebounds leading the Cardinals into the playoffs with an 82-72 win.