Two guys named Pete lit up the RedHawk Roost on Thursday as the Indiana University Northwest RedHawks advanced to the championship game of the A.I.I. Men’s Post-Season Tournament with a 74-66 victory over the Marygrove College Mustangs.
The RedHawks will face the Wildcats of Johnson and Wales University – Denver on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the Savannah Gymnasium. At stake is an automatic bid to the NAIA Men’s Division II National Tournament in Missouri next month. The Wildcats won Thursday’s early game 78-65 over the Saints of Holy Cross College out of South Bend.
Senior Pete Dunbar and junior Pete Trgovich III combined for 51 of the RedHawks’ 74 points in an exciting game that was closer than the 74-66 final indicated. Dunbar handled much of the inside offense for IU Northwest, scoring 30, while Trgovich, though feeling under the weather, took care of business from downtown with five three-pointers and 21 total points. Guard Buster Voils added 11 points in what RedHawk coach Pete Trgovich called one of the most gratifying wins of his career.
“We had two starters out, and I knew how sick Pete (Trgovich) was,” a smiling Coach Trgovich said after watching his team overcome a feisty Marygrove squad with a flurry of offense midway through the second half. “What an effort! These kids, they were so pumped up in the locker room. I’m really proud of them.”
Trgovich and Dunbar connected with each other early and often Thursday, with Trgovich finding Dunbar on some outstanding long passes for easy transition buckets in the first half. Dunbar demonstrated considerable athleticism as he repeatedly attacked the basket. Trgovich, despite feeling ill, found his touch in the second half, burying several long threes and also taking a few big plays to the hoop.
With 11 minutes to play in the second half, Trgovich launched a trey from the left corner to run the RedHawks’ lead to five, their biggest advantage of the half. That touched off a 20-6 IU Northwest scoring binge, capped off by another Trgovich three from the same spot and a Voils jumper from the top of the key. Despite an aggressive Marygrove defense and a number of RedHawk fouls in the closing minutes, the Mustangs never challenged for the lead thereafter.
Though proud of his top scorers, Trgovich also heaped praise on his squad’s total defensive and rebounding effort.
“What really did it was our rebounding,” the coach said. “I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to rebound, because they were bigger and they were more athletic. But Pete (Trgovich) got 11 rebounds. (Freshman) Matt (Bryan) maybe didn’t get as many rebounds, but he kept his guy off the boards. It was huge. I think Nick Panousis had five rebounds at halftime.”
On Friday, the RedHawks will try to win the Association of Independent Institutions’ inaugural tournament on their home floor, another milestone in what has been a remarkable turnaround for the program. IU Northwest is already booked to play in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Division I National Tournament next week in Pennsylvania; a win on Friday would guarantee them a berth in the NAIA Men’s Division II tourney, as well.
And, with the two Pete’s sure to draw considerable defensive attention after their show on Thursday, Trgovich said he’ll look to the rest of his squad for another strong effort at both ends of the court.