GALESBURG — The Carl Sandburg College men’s basketball team can say something it hasn’t been able to in 28 years. The Chargers are Arrowhead Conference champions.
Efficient from start to finish, Sandburg claimed a share of its first conference title since 1990 and its fifth in program history with a 92-73 dismantling of Kishwaukee on Thursday night at John M. Lewis Gymnasium. The Chargers (21-8, 9-1) share the league crown with Highland after winning six straight games to close out their conference schedule. Sandburg has won seven in a row overall and 11 of its last 12 contests.
“We had tough stretch midway through the season, but we found a way to get to another level once we got into our conference schedule,” Chargers coach Ryan Twaddle said. “After we lost at Highland, we knew we had to run the table the rest of the way, and these guys did everything we asked them to do. They played like conference champions, and they earned every bit of that title.”
Playing on Sophomore Night, the Chargers got some of their biggest contributions against the Kougars (5-24, 0-10) from second-year players Matt Wendling (Athens, Ill./Athens), Kourtlandt Martin (Evansville, Ind./Central) and Tyler Houston (Knoxville, Ill./Knoxville).
Wendling hit three 3-pointers and scored a team-high 22 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. Martin dominated from his point guard spot, scoring 18 on 7-of-14 shooting (4 of 8 from 3), grabbing six rebounds, handing out a team-best six assists and racking up three steals. Houston, whose parents both won conference titles with the Chargers in the 1980s, scored 13 and went 3 of 7 from beyond the arc.
The Chargers also got double-digit scoring nights from freshman Ben Stipp (Abingdon, Ill./Abingdon-Avon) with 13 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting and freshman forward T.J. Pendleton (Galesburg, Ill./Galesburg) with 10 points, also on 5-of-7 shooting. Freshman forward Deandrey Robinson (Peoria, Ill./Central) had a team-leading nine rebounds for Sandburg.
Sandburg began to pull away midway through the first half and stretched its lead to as large as 25 in the second. The Chargers had 20 assists on their 37 field goals, shot 53 percent (37 of 70) from the field and knocked down 13 of 29 3s.
Up 21-18 in the first half, three straight 3s from Robinson, Martin and Houston gave the Chargers their first double-digit lead, and they took a 41-32 advantage into the locker room.
Leading 51-38 with 15:00 left, Stipp put back his own miss and finished a layup off a feed from Wendling on the next trip down to ignite a 10-2 burst that stretched Sandburg’s lead to 61-40, and the rout was on.
Landon Griffith’s 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting led three Kishwaukee players in double figures.
“After a big win Tuesday over Highland, I was worried we might not come out with the right mindset, but the guys were focused from the start,” Twaddle said. “They had something to play for, and they came out here tonight and proved it. To do something Sandburg hasn’t done in almost 30 years, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The Chargers will close out the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against Robert Morris-Springfield before opening Region IV tournament play March 1, with the opponent and location yet to be announced.