The Press Newspaper
Danville, Ill — Joe Retic II continued his great play with 19 points as the Express men's basketball team defeated Central Community College-Columbus (NE) 88-72 in the NJCAA D-II National Tournament.
With the win, the Express (26-8) took on the winner of No. 12 Rend Lake College and No. 7 South Suburban College in the NJCAA D-II Final Four on Friday.
This is the first time Owens has reached the final four since former coach Jim Welling was at the helm in 1995-96. Welling, an Eastwood graduate who also played and once owned the all-time assists record at Owens, is now the coach at Central Catholic.
The Express took a 9-2 lead early thanks to several dunks from James Kelly and stretched the lead to 41-27 at halftime. In the second half, the game went back and forth until the Raiders cut the Express deficit to six. That's when Javon Rice hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Express up nine with 14:03 left.
Later, Retic hit a floater in the lane to put the Express up 72-60 with 7:50 left. Retic attacked and scored again in the paint with 5:24 left to put the Express up 80-62. It was smooth sailing from there as the Express managed the clock and took home the victory.
Retic finished 7-for-15 from the field and 5-for-8 from the foul line, while adding a team-high six assists, five rebounds and two assists.
Menawhile, Tony Boykins added 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting, and Kelly added a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds), along with one assist.
Franklin Lindsey also scored in double figures with 10, while adding eight rebounds and one steal.
Overall, the Express shot 33-for-78 from the field, while Central finished 24-for-73. The Raiders were led by Tyron Criswell, who finished with 25 points (9-for-9 FTs). David Plain added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists, while James Spencer had 14 points, 17 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Express head coach Dave Clarke is now 5-1 in postseason games.
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