March 4, 2019 / No. 2 Trailblazers gear up for postseason
VINCENNES, Ind. – The Vincennes University men’s basketball team is No. 2 in the NJCAA Division I national rankings, is the top seed heading into the District 16 Tournament and has a 29-1 overall record.
And the Trailblazers are still capable of kicking into another gear says VU Coach Todd Franklin.
“I think we have another gear we can get to,” he said. “We have got the job done, but there’s another gear to get to. We probably need to get to it if we are going to win the national title.
“I think we have it in us. I don’t think we have played our best basketball for a whole 40 minutes.”
The Trailblazers begin their hunt for a national championship in the quarterfinal round of the NJCAA District 16 Tournament March 5 at Rend Lake College in Ina, Illinois. VU plays at 2 p.m. EST against the winner of a first-round, play-in game between No. 8 seed Shawnee and No. 9 seed Lewis and Clark on March 4.
The District 16 Tournament runs March 5-8 at Rend Lake. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship national tournament March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
VU reached the Final Four of the 2018 national tourney. The Trailblazers are shooting for a seventh consecutive national tournament appearance. Their six straight trips give them the record for the longest streak of consecutive national tournament appearances in the modern era of junior college basketball.
The goal is to win the District 16 tournament so they can make it back to “Hutch”.
“The last couple weeks we haven’t shot the ball as well as we are capable,” Franklin said. “If things come together, we are hard to beat. We think we are conditioned well enough to play three games in four days easy. Usually we play three games in this tournament and we’ve been in the title game eight of the last 10 times. We have a pretty good idea of what it takes.
“When it comes postseason play, you’ve got to be focused on every play. We try to do that in the regular season so now you just want to bring it all together. I don’t think we have to do anything differently than what we’ve done. We’ve just got to do what we do well. When it comes game time, you’ve got to be prepared to play the next play at full intensity because that’s what is going to be required. That’s what we preach all year and that’s partially why we are consistent in our winning anyway.”
The Trailblazers have won every road game they have played this season. Their sole loss was at home to Olney Central 98-96 in overtime on Jan. 9.
Franklin says his team is ready and prepared for the postseason.
VU’s leading scorer is sophomore Lony Francis Jr. He is averaging 16.1 points per game. Sophomore Keith Clemons is No. 2 with 15.2 ppg. VU’s other double-digit scorers are sophomore George Dixon (11.7 ppg) and freshman Kevin Osawe (10.6 ppg).
Freshman Colton Sandage is averaging 9 ppg. Sophomore Kevin Kangu follows with 8.5 points. Freshman Craig Porter is right behind Kangu with 8.4 ppg.
Dixon is the Trailblazers’ top rebounder with 9.3 per game. Francis averages 6.9 rebounds per game. Other learding rebounders are Porter, Osawe and sophomore Jordan Lyons. Porter is averaging 6.4 rpg. Osawe is contributing 6.1 rpg. Lyons is next with 4.5 rpg.
“Any of the guys in the regular rotation have got to show up,” Franklin said. “You expect your sophomores to show up, especially our sophomores who have been to the tournament before, who have been to nationals, and who have been the Final Four. We expect them to step up and play. If they don’t, someone is going to have to step up and do it.”
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