Ina, IL – The Vincennes University Trailblazers defeated Southwestern Illinois 95 – 69 to be crowned the 2018 District 16 Champions, thus receiving an automatic bid to the NJCAA Division I Men’s National Tournament in Hutchinson, KS.
Vincennes got off to a slow start, falling behind for the first time in the District 16 tournament, by the score of 5 – 1, before freshmen big-men George Dixon and Lony Francis, Jr. scored 7 unanswered points putting the Trailblazers ahead 8 – 5. VU would go on another run, this time an 8 – 0 run fueled by a 3-point basket by sophomore C.J. Hedgepeth, and 5 straight by sophomore Isaiah Tisdale. Southwestern went on a scoring run to help bring the score within 2 at the second media timeout of the first-half. After the timeout the Trailblazers scorers took over the game, unleashing a 14 – 1 run, capped off by an emphatic one-handed dunk by Tisdale. The Blue Storm tried to answer with, yet another scoring run but ran out of time as the first-half came to a close. Vincennes went into halftime with a 41 – 31 lead over Southwestern Illinois, putting the Trailblazers in a good position to finish out the win as VU has not lost a game this season when going into the break with a lead.
Vincennes set the tone for the second-half early, as a Lony Francis missed hook shot was rebounded and put back with a thunderous slam by George Dixon. A 3-point field goal by freshman Keith Clemons extended the Trailblazer lead to 16 points with about 18 minutes to go in the game. The VU lead would stay between 16 – 20 throughout most of the second-half as Vincennes and Southwestern traded baskets, until a quick 5-point burst from Isaiah Tisdale caused the SWIC head coach Jay Harrington to call a timeout with 13:29 remaining. The two teams went back-and-forth again for the next 6 minutes, with the Blue Storm not able to close the gap to within 20. What sealed the game for Vincennes was a stretch starting with 5:57 on the clock. VU proceeded to grab 3 consecutive rebounds, which allowed the Trailblazers to hold the ball for nearly 2 minutes. Vincennes slowed the tempo to a crawl to finish out the game, eventually taking a shot clock violation with 8 seconds to go.
At this point, the celebration was on, Vincennes University captured the District 16 Tournament Championship for the 5th time in 6 years and punched their ticket to the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship in Hutchinson, KS. The Trailblazers will be making their 34th appearance in the tournament, which is most all-time, as well as their 6th consecutive appearance at the National tournament which moves VU into second-place all-time for most consecutive appearance.
Isaiah Tisdale led all scoring with 29 points, which moved him to 23rd on the VU all-time leading scorers list, passing former teammate Chris Darrington. Tisdale also grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 5 assists in the game. Lony Francis, Jr. followed him with 20 points and 7 rebounds. Ty Gadsden ended a spectacular tournament performance with 14 points, and sophomore Rade Kukobat came off the bench to score 11 points and grab 9 rebounds. Isaiah “Pun” Tisdale was crowned District 16 tournament Most Valuable Player for the second-year in a row. Tisdale scored 51 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, and added 13 assists in the 3-game tournament.
Vincennes will wait and see where they are placed in the NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament on Monday, March 12th. There will be a “Selection Monday” selection show live-streamed on njcaatv.org that will begin at 12:30 p.m. eastern. Tournament play will begin the following Monday, March 19th in Hutchinson.