ROBINSON, Ill. — Mikeal Donaldson blocked a slam dunk attempt with 18 seconds left to cement Wabash Valley’s 70-65 victory over Lincoln Trail in a Region 24 tournament play-in game here Monday night.
The victory sends the Warriors into Thursday’s quarterfinal-round play at Rend Lake College. WVC (13-18) will play top-seed and third-ranked Vincennes University at noon.
Donaldson rose high above his 6-foot-6 frame to swat a would-be slam by Lincoln Trail’s Jesse Tesmer away. The block kept the 69-65 lead intact, which Jaquan Lynch added to with one free throw to account for the final at :13.
“That was probably the play of the game,” said Wabash Valley coach Mike Carpenter. “They could have cut the lead to two points.”
The block halted the hosts’ last-minute comeback bid. Trailing 69-60 with two minutes left, Lincoln Trail (13-17) got a 3-point field goal from Jason Smith (one of his game-high four 3-balls) and an inside move by Dennis Hightower to cut the Warrior lead to 69-65 with 39 seconds remaining.
Donaldson’s block kept the 6-foot-8 Tesmer scoreless in the second half after a 12-point opening half.
“Defensively, I thought we did a much better job this time around,” said Carpenter, applauding his team’s effort in slowing Lincoln Trail’s 3-point assault. Five days earlier, in a regular-season matchup in Mt. Carmel, the Statesmen hit 16-of-30 from beyond the arc, but could muster only five bombs against WVC at home.
Smith’s 23 led the way for LTC. Hightower added 18.
Tyrone Sherman led the Warrior attack with 19 points. Lynch added 13, Donaldson 12 and Brienne Miles 11 points.
WVC, which has won five of its last six games, may face an uphill battle against Vincennes in the quarterfinals, but Carpenter relishes the opportunity to play the Trailblazers .
“We are looking forward to that one,” Carpenter said. “If you’re going to go down, you might as well go down against the best and go down swinging.
“We played (Vincennes) close the last time. They are big and strong, but we will play them hard. I promise you that.”
Lynch was shaken up late on a play under the WVC basket and appeared dazed and confused as the play raced ahead of him at the other end.
Still out of it and again trailing the play as the Warriors regained possession, it appeared the officials had stopped the game to check on Lynch’s status.
That was not the case. Instead, the officials had whistled Sherman for a technical. Smith hit two free throws to pull Lincoln Trail within 68-60, but the Statesman did nothing with the ensuing possession.
“That could have cost us the game,” Carpenter said.
Lynch, who seemed to recover, remained in the game.