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DANVILLE — A chance to play for an NJCAA Division II men’s basketball championship was within Danville Area’s grasp on Friday night.
But the fourth-seeded Jaguars (26-5) were unable to fend off multiple surges from eighth-seeded Macomb (Mich.), which overcame deficits at several stages of a 69-67 overtime triumph that sent the Monarchs (28-7) to Saturday night’s national title game.
“We had our moments,” DACC head coach DaJuan Gouard said. “They stayed with it and finished the game.”
The loss snapped DACC’s 13-game winning streak that dated back to Jan. 10 and carried the program to its first national tournament appearance since 2018.
Those memories helped ease the wound left by Friday’s defeat, even as the Jaguars remain in the hunt for the third-place trophy. That third-place game is set for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday against the loser of Friday’s late semifinal game between 7-seed Milwaukee Area Tech and 6-seed Orange County (N.Y.)
“Just staying positive and looking at all the great things that we did,” DACC sophomore Kendall Taylor said. “The season’s not over with, we still have to win (on Saturday night). Just dwelling on the good things, learning from the bad and moving on.”
Large attendance figures are common at the national tournament, which DACC has hosted at Mary Miller Gym since 1994.
All three of DACC’s games at the tournament have been played in front of capacity crowds, and an energetic Jaguars contingent had plenty to cheer for in the early stages of Friday’s contest.
The Jaguars jetted out to a 39-31 halftime lead thanks to 13 early points from Taylor and nine points apiece from Ramelle Arnold and Martez Rhodes.
Arnold and Rhodes combined to score all but two of DACC’s 11 points in the final five minutes of the half, a stretch in which the Jaguars extended their lead from six to nine points.
“In the first couple of minutes of the game, I don’t think I really attempted a shot,” Arnold said. “My teammates were just feeding it confident to me, just be aggressive and do what I do, just trying to be aggressive where I can.”
DACC made 16 of its 24 shots in the first half and drained three of its five attempts from deep, while the Monarchs connected on 15 of their 28 attempts and made just one of their 10 attempts from beyond the arc.
Momentum shifted in the second half when the Monarchs’ play became more physical. Macomb finished with 32 points in the paint to DACC’s 26 and turned the Jaguars over 11 times.
After Arnold drilled a three to start the second half, Macomb rattled off a 16-0 scoring run to claim a 48-42 lead that sent the game into a back-and-forth tussle for the rest of its duration.
“We were forcing them to miss, but they just started going to the glass, cleaning up the glass and getting some easy putbacks,” Gouard said. “They were running different things to try and get downhill and put us in foul trouble and give us kind of a taste of our own medicine.”
Tamario Adley paced the Monarchs with 17 points and was complimented by Aidan Rubio’s 16-point, nine-rebound performance. The duo combined to make 13 of their 27 attempts from the field.
“(Tamario was) incredible, made big plays down the stretch,” Monarchs coach Hassan Nizam said. “The most impressive part about what he did was, we’re down one in a timeout and I’m about to draw up a play for him and he says ‘go to Rubio,’ and we go to Rubio and he goes downhill and gets an and-one.’”
DACC scored the first five points in overtime after regulation ended with the teams tied at 62. But the Jaguars never scored again and Macomb surged back behind a three-pointer from Juwan Maxey and four points from Rubio, which included the go-ahead layup with 16 seconds left. Ryan Caddell’s three-pointer from the far corner rimmed out at the overtime buzzer to end the Jaguars’ quest for their first national title since 1991.
“I think we played a good overall game,” Arnold said. “Just a couple of stops we didn’t get and a couple of offensive rebounds we let them get and that led to that.”
The Jaguars entered Friday assured of two games remaining. Now, they’ll have to gear up for the game they didn’t want to play in.
“Next play mentality,” Roberts said. “(Friday) didn’t go how we wanted it to and we ended up losing, but it’s next play, next game and we have to learn from it and make the right adjustments for (Saturday).”