The Region is full of grinders who bounce back and defy expectations. That attitude is epitomized this college basketball season by the Calumet College men’s basketball team.
The Crimson Wave started 0-3 and endured losses to key rotation players, but the jubilant locker room after Saturday’s history-making victory showed that Calumet College is having the last laugh now. The laughter will continue a few more days until the Crimson Wave hear their name and seed announced during the NAIA national tournament selection announcement.
Calumet College will then make the first trip to nationals in program history via its regular-season championship in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s South Division. It’s also the first NAIA-governed sport at CCSJ to qualify for nationals as a team.
“People wanted to keep writing us off,” CCSJ 10th-year coach Ryan Sexson said. “We were 0-3, and people wrote us off. When we lost Johnny Baldwin, they wrote us off. They said we’re a good team but can’t win it all. This team found way to do it.”
More incredible than the conference title and rare national tourney berth is the route the team took to clinch its berth in the 32-team field for the national tourney, which is March 8-14 at Point Lookout, Mo.
“The ending was crazy,” Sexson said. “We were just locked in from the end of January throughout February. Our most important game was always the next game on the schedule, and we weren’t ever worried about anybody else. I know it’s a cliche, but the guys really bought in, and we lived it.”
The Wave (17-12) are still alive in the CCAC tournament after a Tuesday win over St. Francis, but every win now is just extra after CCSJ had to win five of its final six games against conference foes just to forge a three-way tie for first place in the CCAC South. After defeating Trinity Christian 86-64 Saturday on the road, avenging a Jan. 18 home loss in the process, Calumet College players celebrated because it held tiebreakers over Olivet Nazarene and St. Francis, which also finished 12-9 in CCAC play.
The Crimson Wave won the CCAC regular-season title in 2007, but back then the conference, which has 18 teams this season, only had one automatic berth in the national tourney, and it went to the CCAC tourney winner. Now the conference has three guaranteed national berths -- the two division winners and the tournament champion.
The Wave were not above .500 until Jan. 5. The team switched styles about a quarter of the way into the season and regained the services of returning all-conference player Johnny Baldwin, who had taken a semester off to conserve his final semester of eligibility. Baldwin led the team amid a six-game win streak but broke a foot in his sixth game back.
Rotation player La’Roi Harmon from Hammond High was injured around the same time but could return for the national tourney.
“We had to reset and figure ourselves out yet again,” Sexson said. “That changes you and how you play. To find a way to do it with this group and these six seniors, with everything we’ve been through with sickness and injuries, it’s been great to know that we get to represent our school on a national stage. We’ve had a lot of great support, and we’re really excited to get down there.”
Last call at Scharf for Pumas: St. Joseph’s College will host its final men’s basketball game at Richard F. Scharf Alumni Fieldhouse as the University of Indianapolis comes to town.
Earlier this year the college announced it would halt academic activities after this semester. The Pumas (11-16, 5-12 Great Lakes Valley Conference) basketball team has responded with a cavalier attitude and registered upsets of Parkside and Lewis in the last week behind double-doubles from Kindred Williams and a game-winner against Lewis off the hands of CJ Hardaway.
CCSJ wrestler heads to nationals: Calumet College heavyweight wrestler Scott Pitrowski’s slimmer season did nothing to slim his odds of being a national qualifier.
The Lowell grad dropped about 50 pounds in the offseason to become more nimble, and his hard work paid off when he was announced as a wildcard qualifier for the NAIA nationals, the school’s lone member to earn a berth, after placing fourth at the Midwest Qualifier earlier this month.
Pitrowski, a senior who has been ranked regionally most of the season, will take a 21-11 mark into 60th annual NAIA national tournament March 3-4 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.
Pride tennis off to program’s best start: The Purdue Northwest tennis program has been serving since the 2010-11 Purdue Calumet season started, but before this season a 5-0 start was unheard of.
The team has an eclectic mix of imports from Europe and South America paired with some local Duneland Athletic Conference alumni and most recently came through with a 7-2 victory over St. Joseph’s College last weekend at Match Point.
Patrick Mudd (Crown Point) is 2-1 in doubles play and won his only singles match of the season so far. Lake Central grad John Mamelson has gone 2-0 in his attempts at doubles and split his four singles matches.