Johnson's 27 leads Blazers by Lake Land
INA, Ill. — Caleb Johnson played the offensive hero and Ryan Oliver the defensive one in Vincennes University's Region 24 Tournament men's basketball opener Monday.
Johnson tied his career-high with 27 points, fueling a key second-half run, and the second-seeded Trailblazers ousted seventh-seeded Lake Land, 79-67, in the quarterfinals.
It was a key victory for 14th-ranked VU (27-4), which put itself in good position to receive one of the eight at-large berths to the NJCAA Finals later this month. The region tournament winner receives the automatic bid, with No. 2 John A. Logan the favorite to win that.
Tasos Cook played a strong supportive offensive role with 21 points, that included 8-of-8 free-throw shooting, and nine assists.
The Blazers were tested Monday by the Lakers (17-15), who trimmed a 16-point second-half deficit to four. But Johnson tallied seven in a 9-2 spurt to push VU back in double figures for the remainder of the game.
"The first day is always tough, especially when you don't have guys back who have had success," Blazers coach Todd Franklin said. "You know when you bring guys back like (former VU players) Pun Tisdale, Chris Darrington, Lony Francis and Keith Clemens in their second year, you have a good idea of how they're going to play. This year we're just searching, and we found enough to get through this one."
While Franklin noted his team struggled to score during Lake Land's rally, he couldn't find fault with the defense of Oliver and Trenton Johnson on the Lakers' Johnny Close. The guard, who is Lake Land's leading scorer at 14.5 per game, was held scoreless Monday.
"I'm proud of our guys, and the job that Trenton, and in particular Ryan, did on Close was tremendous," Franklin said. "They both chased him around and not letting him score anything is worth 20 to 25 points to us."
Johnson's two free throws gave the Blazers their biggest lead, 47-31. The Lakers responded with the next eight points, but a timely Michael Osei-Bonsu steal turned into a Cook layup to push the lead to 10.
Lake Land retaliated with the next six points, with Jahmir Tyrell's bucket cutting the gap to 49-45. The margin was also four at 51-47 and 53-49.
Oliver's drive, was followed by a Johnson 3-pointer and a fadeaway, and VU's margin was 60-49 with 7:15 showing, and the Blazers were out of trouble.
"It got down to four, and we played ball a little bit. Caleb played ball. Ryan stepped up and tried to do some things, and Tasos is out there playing big minutes, fighting it," Franklin said. "Devawn White gave us some good things during that stretch, and the ball finally went in. We had enough open shots, but it's a first day and you have to battle through it.
"Lake Land is a talented team too."
Yassin Hussein scored 21 to lead the Lakers, and Amar Kuljukovic adding 13.
The Lakers had a brief early lead, but the Blazers' defense was on point early.
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Karyiek Dixon's bucket handed VU its first double-figure lead at 19-8 nine minutes in. The Blazers led by as much as 13 on multiple occasions in the opening half, the last at 31-18 on Johnson's 3-pointer.
It was 39-28 at halftime.
The top four seeds all won Monday.
The Blazers play Southwestern Illinois (21-10) in Wednesday's 8 p.m. semifinal. The third-seeded Blue Storm ousted sixth-seeded Wabash Valley, 71-61, in Monday's nightcap.
The first semifinal that night pits top-seeded Logan against fourth-seeded Olney. The Volunteers pounded ninth-seeded Lewis & Clark in Monday's opener, 86-61. The Blue Knights rallied to nip fifth-seeded Kaskaskia, 72-71.
VINCENNES 79, LAKE LAND 67
Kuljukovic (F) 4-6 5-7 13, Hussein (F) 9-17 3-7 21, Chapman (G) 3-7 2-2 8, Cox (G) 0-4 7-12 7, Camacho (G) 2-5 0-0 4, Close 0-0 0-0 0, Tyrell 5-7 2-2 12, Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Neal 0 0-0 0, Diouf 0-2 2-2 2. Totals: 23-50 21-32 67.
C.Johnson (F) 10-15 4-5 27, Osei-Bonsu (F) 2-2 0-0 4, Jackson (C) 3-7 1-3 7, Cook (G) 6-13 8-8 21, T.Johnson (G) 2-7 2-3 6, White 1-2 0-1 2, Gaither 0-0 0-0 0, Kr. King 2-10 0-1 4, Oliver 2-5 1-3 6, Ke. King 0-0 0-0 0, Dixon 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 29-63 16-24 79.
SCORE BY HALVES
Lake Land |28-39 — 67
Vincennes |39-40 — 79
3-point shooting: Lake Land 0-7 (Kuljuhovic 0-1, Cox 0-1, Diouf 0-1, Chapman 0-2, Davis 0-2), VU 5-12 (C.Johnson 3-4, Cook 1-3, Oliver 1-3, T.Johnson 0-1, Kr. King 0-1). Rebounds: Lake Land 31 (Kuljuhovic 11), VU 29 (Jackson, Osei-Bonsu 7). Turnovers: Lake Land 17, VU 13. Fouls: Lake Land 21, VU 18. Fouled out: Tyrell, Cox, Camacho.
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