By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Danville, IL---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) will now take on No. 12 Rend Lake College in the NJCAA D-II Final Four on Friday at 6 p.m.
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.
In two national tournament games, Retic has 36 points and nine assists, while Kelly has 26 points and 17 rebounds.
The Express are now making their first NJCAA D-II National Tournament Final 4 appearance since the 1995-96 season.
Express head coach Dave Clarke is now 5-1 in postseason games.