SUGAR GROVE — The Carl Sandburg College men’s basketball team took top-seeded Morton down to the wire, but the Chargers fell just short of pulling off the upset in an 89-86 overtime loss on Sunday in the semifinals of the Region IV District 4 tournament, ending one of the program’s best seasons in the last three decades.
Fourth-seeded Sandburg (23-9) had a nine-game winning streak snapped despite rallying from 12 down in the first half and a 37-27 deficit at halftime. The Chargers slowly started to claw back early in the second half and took a 50-49 lead when Kourtlandt Martin (Evansville, Ind./Central) found Deandrey Robinson (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) for a layup with 11:50 to play.
That started a see-saw finish to regulation that saw six lead changes and three ties. The Panthers (20-12) led 75-69 before Martin scored the last of regulation, capped by the tying 3-pointer with :23.3 left. Morton’s Edward Clary had a putback at the buzzer that the officials ruled came too late, sending the game to overtime.
“We dug ourselves a big hole, but we found a way to put together a good effort in the second half and give ourselves a chance,” Chargers coach Ryan Twaddle. “It would’ve been easy for us to throw in the towel, but we came out and played like we wanted it.”
Sandburg forced a pair of ties in OT but never grabbed the lead. Morton went ahead for good at 82-79 on Deonte McReynolds’ 3-pointer midway through the extra session. He finished with 30 points, including a 7-for-16 night from long range.
The Chargers pulled within one twice after that and had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Matt Wendling (Athens, Ill./Athens) was stripped while trying to hit Martin in the corner for an attempt at a 3.
“We had a shot to keep the game going and they made a good defensive play,” Twaddle said. “I thought we played a great final 25 minutes, but they just made a few more plays than us down the stretch, and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Martin matched McReynolds for game-high honors with a season-best 30 points, including a 14-for-17 night from the line. Wendling notched his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting and pulling in 11 rebounds. Wendling also eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in his Chargers career, ending it with 1,012 points.
Sandburg also got double-digit nights from Robinson, who had 13 points, and sophomore Tyler Houston (Knoxville, Ill./Knoxville), who scored 10 and grabbed five rebounds.
Morton advances to face No. 2 seed South Suburban, which beat host Waubonsee in Sunday’s other semifinal, in the championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The loss ended one of the best seasons in recent history for the Chargers, who closed the year with 13 wins in their last 15 games and won a share of the Arrowhead Conference title, their first since 1990.
“It’s a hard way to end the season, but I’m proud of the way our guys competed,” Twaddle said. “We played really good basketball in the second half of the year, and these guys did something that hasn’t been done at Sandburg since well before any of them were born. This one will hurt for a while, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.”