Illinois Lutheran senior Collin Borns knows the time is at hand for his fellow Chargers basketball teammates as the clock is winding down on their glorious high school hoop careers.
Borns and the senior-laden team would like nothing better than to punch the clock a few more times for at least a dozen more quarters of playing time.
“I think this is a great opportunity to show people what we’re capable of,” Borns said. “This is our last chance to make a name for ourselves.”
Five of the top six Chargers are seniors, including three players who started on last year’s 19-7 squad that fell in the regional championship game to Newark.
Illinois Lutheran would like to script a different ending to this campaign, but it won’t be easy.
Lutheran (14-6) is the No. 3 seed in the Gardner-South Wilmington Regional that opens tonight. Top-seed St. Anne is taking on Donovan in the upper bracket, while Lutheran plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday against sixth-seeded St. Francis de Sales in the lower bracket.
“Our regional is probably stronger than last year,” said Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad in his 10th year at the helm. “And we got a tough draw — St. Francis de Sales, and then Dwight if we win, and then St. Anne.”
The Chargers aren’t looking past the up-and-down St. Francis de Sales, but their goal is to win the regional.
“We have to be consistent and do it for three games,” Kjenstad said.
Putting the ball in the basket hasn’t been a problem for Lutheran this season as Mack Newson, who’s scored more than 1,000 points in his career, is averaging 20 points per game and Borns is scoring 18 points per game.
“We’re trying to improve defensively, especially in the half court,” Kjenstad said. “Offensively, we’ve got some guys that can score, but that doesn’t do you any good if you can’t stop them on the other end.”
Kjenstad said the rebounding will be the key to improving the defense and making a run in the regional.
“Rebounding completes defense,” he said. “You’ve got to play good half court defense, but we still have to get the rebound.
“It was our strength last year, and it’s our weakness this year.”
Borns stands 6-foot-3, while senior forward Jacob Woldhuis is 6-4 and leads the team in rebounding with 5 rebounds per game. Senior forward Evan Herschel (6-2) and 5-10 junior guard Justin Schmidtke and Newon round out the starting five.
Borns said the key against St. Francis de Sales is “sticking to the game plan.”
“Definitely, we want to get a box out and keep them off the offensive board and on defense,” he said. “They’re really athletic so for us we have to try to limit their offensive boards, get the one-and-done on every opportunity.”
Kjenstad said St. Francis de Sales has his full attention. It’s had an up-and-down year and is on its second coach this season, but Kjenstad said it has the talent to win the regional.
Borns said senior sixth man Sam Geraci brings a lot of energy off the bench.
“We have a lot of different people who are capable of scoring double digits on any given night,” he said.
Kjenstad said the nine seniors on the team bring a lot of confidence.
“They’re hungry,” he said. “They were all there last year and know they can win it this year.
“I don’t think that effort is going to be an issue. We’re going to play hard. We’ll practice hard and be ready.”
One more time — at least.
“We know that we just have to be 1-0 every game,” Borns said. “That’s our goal.”