KANKAKEE | Illiana Christian boys basketball players reluctantly accepted their team trophy and individual medals after an exhausting 78-72 overtime loss to Clifton Central on Saturday night in the championship game of the Kankakee Holiday Tournament small school bracket.
“At the end of the game they hit more big shots than we did,” said Caleb Jonkman, who scored a team-high 28 points and dished out eight assists.
“You’ve got to give (Central) credit,” Illiana coach Thomas Roozeboom said. “They hit some big threes when we had the lead a little bit to pull back even.”
Matthew Zandstra scored a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left in regulation to knot the game at 65-65.
“We found him, kicked it out, and he nailed a big shot,” Roozeboom said.
After Central missed at the other end, Jonkman’s half-court shot rimmed out.
“He got a good shot off, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” Roozeboom said.
Central (7-0) outscored Illiana 13-7 in the extra session to wrap up its first KHT title.
“We played hard, and that’s a great team,” Roozeboom said. “More than likely, you’ll probably see them winning a regional and moving on in the sectional.”
It was little consolation for the Vikings (6-6) who rallied from an 11-point first quarter deficit to eventually take the lead in the second half.
“We didn’t come out with great intensity, but at the start of the second quarter we started playing our game more,” Jonkman said. “We started playing strong defense and got out on the break more.”
Illiana pulled within 34-33 at the half. After falling behind 41-35 at the start of the third quarter, the rally started again.
Two free throws by Jonkman gave the Vikings their first lead of the game at 48-47 with 1:31 left in the third quarter. The Vikings led 51-48 with eight minutes left and by three points (61-58) with 2:01 remaining.
With several Vikings in foul trouble, Aaron Haan came off the bench to grab six rebounds.
“He helped us get shots on the offensive end and stepped up,” Zandstra said.
Jonkman said the KHT run will give the team some momentum.
“Knowing that we can play with these types of teams and these types of games will give us a lot of confidence to do what we need to do in conference play,” Jonkman said.
Zandra finished with 16 points and four rebounds, while Chad Ketelaar finished with 12 points and six boards.
“(Central) played a great game, but now that when we get into these situations, we’ll have experience to build off,” Zandstra said.
Jonkman and Zandstra were named to the all-tourney team, and Illiana Christian was presented the sportsmanship award.