CRETE | While Beecher and Illinois Lutheran high schools joined together Friday to promote healthy hearts, it was Collin Borns who made sure his team didn’t miss a beat on the court.
With Illinois Lutheran’s leading scorer, junior Mack Newson, out with an elbow injury, Borns did his best to spell his teammate with 21 points, five assists and five rebounds as the Chargers staved off a furious Beecher rally in a 55-48 River Valley Conference victory.
Friends, family and faculty from both Beecher and Illinois Lutheran gathered before the contest to support the American Heart Association with a Cheer with Heart fundraiser. And as dollars were dropped in collection boxes in the cafeteria, Borns was dropping shots where the Chargers needed it most.
Clinging to a 36-31 lead to open up the fourth period, Borns turned perfect in front of a packed house. The 6-foot-3 guard shot a clean 5-of-5 shooting from the floor in the fourth quarter, including eight points over a two-minute stretch that kept Illinois Lutheran (16-5, 9-3) in control at 53-42 with 3:30 left to play. His final score, a single free throw with 29 seconds remaining, made it a two-score difference that Beecher (8-14, 5-6) couldn’t overcome.
“It wasn’t about making up for Mack (Newson) being out tonight,” Borns said. “It doesn’t matter to any of us who’s scoring the points as long as we’re playing hard and getting the ‘W’.”
Illinois appeared to be in control early in the second half, pulling ahead 27-15 on a free throw from Austin Wood (15 points, 10 rebounds) at the 5:38 mark, but the Bobcats refused to go away.
Nick Burkhardt connected on an awkward hook shot on Beecher’s ensuing possession to kick start a 24-14 move that ate up the rest of the third period and ventured into the fourth. Austin King knocked down a jumper to end the run and cut the Bobcats’ deficit to 41-39 with 6:06 remaining.
But Borns wasted no time in going on a run of his own.
“It didn’t seem to matter if we had a hand in his face or not, he was just on,” Beecher coach Tony Waznonis said of Borns. “He was knocking down shots where you just had to turn and shrug and understand that you did the best you could do to defend him.”
Each of Borns’ final four field goals came in heavy traffic, but found nothing but net. Wood, who assisted on three of Borns’ buckets during the game, could only find humor in his teammate’s big finale.
“When our star point guard, Mack Newson, showed up in a sling after a doctor’s appointment today, we were all a little worried,” Wood said. “But Collin really put an exclamation point on why we maybe shouldn’t worry if Mack has to miss a few more games.”
Beecher did its best to rally behind the hot hand of Marshall Landis. The junior guard scored 18 points over the final 11 minutes of the game, including 12 via 3-pointers, to finish with a game-high 22. He also scored Beecher’s final six points, all from the free throw line.
With the victory, Illinois Lutheran finishes second in the River Valley Conference, its highest finish since joining the league.
“We’re happy with this one. We didn’t play with full intensity from start to finish, but we got what we needed when we needed it,” Illinois Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad said. “We got contributions from several players tonight and pulled this one out as a unit.”