Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012, 9:16 pm

BHC cagers seek postseason success

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By Tom Johnston, tjohnston@qconline.com

When the NJCAA Region IV playoffs begin tonight, both Black Hawk College basketball teams feel as if they are in a position to taste success.

That task may be a bit more difficult for Coach Darren Bizarri's men's club. The 9-20 Braves are on the road to face South Suburban, a 27-3 club ranked No. 6 in the latest NJCAA national poll. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Coach Gary Altman's 15-13 women drew the No. 4 seed and host the fifth-seeded Highland Cougars tonight at 6:30 in the Building 3 Gym.

Both BHC teams are looking to earn spots in the Region IV Division II, District A semifinals at Illinois Valley Community College. The men's semis are on Sunday, the women's on Saturday.

- Braves on road: Bizarri has liked the way his team has played down the stretch of the regular season. He said that a switch in the starting lineup — inserting 6-foot-8 freshman Cody Cooley (Davenport West) and bringing 6-2 Danny DeBacker (Orion) off the bench — has helped.

"With Cooley in the lineup, we've been playing better and getting more scoring from other people," said Bizarri. "We feel like our rotation is much better. With Danny off the bench, we've been able to give Jamere (Dismukes) a little more rest and keep him fresher."

Dismukes, a sophomore from Rich East H.S., has turned in a terrific season, leading the Braves in scoring (14 ppg) and assists (4.7 per game).

Even though this looks like a tough matchup for the seventh-seeded Braves against No. 2 South Suburban, Bizarri doesn't mind. South Suburban beat BHC 64-55 in early February, but Bizarri said, "We missed 15 free throws; we were 19 of 34 from the line."

"The biggest thing to do against South Suburban, we know it's going to be a physical game and we have to handle their physicality," said Bizarri. "We have to rebound — and that's been our Achilles this season — and limit their easy chances. ... If we do those things and rise to the challenge, it's a game we're capable of winning."

The Braves will be a little short-handed this evening. Johnathan Rice, a 7-foot freshman from Indianapolis, is sitting out the second of a two-game suspension for throwing a flagrant elbow against Black Hawk East.

- Another dandy on tap? The BHC and Highland women have hooked up in a pair of nail-biters this season, and Altman said he easily could see another close one playing out tonight.

"We're different teams," said Altman. "They are bigger than us, but we're maybe quicker in all five spots."

In their first meeting, BHC pulled out an 81-80 overtime victory when freshman Lauren Ickes hit two free throws with about a second left on the clock. In Freeport, Highland pulled out a 65-63 victory.

"Our record is a lot better than theirs," said Altman, his club finishing the regular season at 15-13. "I guess we just bring the best out of them."

Altman is hoping his club can bring its best to the court tonight — something that has been hard to do on a consistent basis this season. Altman says one week his club will play great and the next week struggle. The Lady Braves, though, have stepped up against tougher competition, knocking off a couple of ranked teams this season.

"We've played better against teams we had to play better against to compete with," said Altman. "On nights we don't shoot well, we let that affect other phases of our game, and we can't afford to have that happen."