By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Rock Valley College continues to dominate the NJCAA Division III sports scene. Now, you can add a men’s basketball championship to their growing list of national championships.
The Golden Eagles finished their season strong, finishing with a 30-5 record and winning their first national championship, defeating Caldwell Tech (N.C.) 79-69 at the NJCAA DIV III Championship in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.
Rock Valley trailed by 8 at halftime of their game against Caldwell, but ouscored them 55-37 in the second half, thanks to a pair of Rockford Jefferson grads.
Jared Mayes had a game-high 28 points, 16 of which came in the second half to help aid the comeback. He also grabbed five rebounds and hit nine free throws to help ice the game.
His former teammate at Jefferson, LT Davis, also scored 21 points. Like Mayes, he scored 16 in the second half and recorded five assists.
Both were named to the all-tournament team. Davis, who coach Craig Doty recruited out of a Culvers restaurant where Davis was working, won tournament MVP honors.
Not only is Rock Valley representing Rockford at a national level, but they are doing it with a lot of local players who local basketball fans would recognize.
Frank Cimino of Boylan scored 26 in the first game at nationals and was a key player all season. Former Boylan teammates Ben Grygiel and Keenan Franklin also played key roles on the team. Former Auburn star Tairhe Turner also started for the team, and Belvidere standout Darius Brown played key minutes off the bench.
It was a big moment for the team, which Doty has been building to since he took over last season. He was able to climb a ladder with his son to cut down the nets, which he called, “one of the best moments of my life.”
The women’s team, which won the previous two national championships, also made it to the final game. They came up just short this time, however, falling 69-60 to Northland College in the championship.
Despite coming up short, they still had several players recognized for their great play. Marqueisha Grant and Aleesha Cleaver, who both had 17 points in the final game, both made the all-tournament team. They were joined by teammate Shantiera Miller.
From the March 19-25, 2014, issue