The Elgin Community College men's basketball team held off a furious rally in the closing minutes to outlast visiting College of DuPage, 85-81, Tuesday night at the Events Center in Elgin.
After being up at halftime by 9 points, and leading by as many as 12 in the second half, ECC used timely shots and late trips to the free-throw line to help secure the victory. The Spartans (3-2) went 13 of 18 from the charity stripe down the line thanks to early foul trouble by the Chaparrals (1-3).
ECC came out firing to start the game, launching 18 3-pointers and shooting nearly 65 percent from beyond the arc. Jon Leigeber, who finished with 21 points, hit his first 3 3 point attempts while Jake Thomas, who led all Spartans with 26 points, hit the last four he took, but that trend turned in the second half.
The Spartans made only 2 3 pointers on 6 attempts in the second half opening the door for a COD comeback, something Spartans coach Reed Nosbisch knows will happen from time to time.
"We've definitely got some guys who can shoot," Nosbisch said. "(The guys) feed off of it. Once you get a couple in a row to go in you start to feel real good. But when you miss a couple it can turn as well."
Thomas drove the offense for much of the first half, rarely leaving the floor, but had some help in the second thanks to Zach Cooper. Scoring all 11 of his points in the second half, including 4 straight free throws at the end, Cooper helped sustain a Spartan offense that was struggling after the break after he sat because of foul trouble.
"Teammates came up big in the second half, Coop found me and it drove us." Thomas said.
Across the court the Chaparrals felt as though they could have come away with a victory if their defense could have held out.
"My biggest concern right now is the defense; it's not where it needs to be." COD coach Dr. T. Earl Reed said. "We need to step it up defensively if we're going to win at all, so I'm a little disappointed with how our defense is."
Echoing the statement of his coach was one of the lone bright spots on offense for COD, Ryan Rader who led all scorers with 33 points, including 21 in the second half. He also added 12 rebounds, while Pairs Dunlap added 14 points and brought down 4 rebounds. Rader said that giving up 85 points in a game was "unacceptable".
"We've got to play better defensively," he said. "We did fight back and it was a close game but we just couldn't pull it out at the end."