Jackson graduate eager to take final shot at playoffs

Thursday, February 20, 2003

For Jackson High School graduate Justin Keen, it's his last chance at a collegiate championship.

The Columbia College Cougars have a record of 81-20 over Keen's first three seasons. In those three seasons the Cougars have been bounced out of the national tournament in the first round twice and the sweet 16 once.

So for Keen and the other Columbia seniors, this year is a chance for them to turn their postseason luck around.

"When you get to the national tournament, it comes down to who's at their peak," Keen said.

Keen's Cougars are ranked 10th in the NAIA Top 25, are 20-5 and have won four straight since falling to McKendree. The Cougars avenged an earlier loss to Illinois-Springfield with a 69-65 win Thursday night and have beaten four of the five teams they have lost to in their second meeting. Keen poured in 13 points in the win.

The Cougars get another chance at now No. 2 McKendree Saturday, a game Keen said could decide who wins the conference. McKendree is first and Columbia second.

"Saturday's game is definitely a big game," he said.

A win over the No. 2 team in the nation also could give the 10th-ranked Cougars a big boost in the national rankings going into the final weeks of the season.

Keen said after playing McKendree within one earlier in the season, the Cougars know they can hang with the elite teams in NAIA.

"It really gives us confidence, 'cause in that game we only shot 24 percent," he said of the Cougars one-point loss to McKendree. "If we shoot better at all we should have a good chance to beat them."

Along with his senior leadership, Keen is contributing about seven points per game. Keen ranks third on the team in rebounding with four a game.

After shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the arc last season and leading the team with 52 three-pointers, Keen has slowed his outside pace a bit. Keen's 3-point percentage is still 45 percent, but Keen's attempts are down from last season.

Along with a 3-1 American Midwest Conference start, the Cougars are 10-1 at home. If they want to win the conference they'll have to do it on the road, since only two of their six remaining conference games are at home.

Keen said this year's team has a good a shot as any he's been on though, due to its depth.

"This year we have 10 players that all can, and have, started," he said.

Keen's success has not been limited to the court. Keen has been an academic all-American each of the past two seasons and graduated last year with a triple major in accounting, management and finance. Keen is taking classes toward a masters in business administration.

Noteworthy

  • Rend Lake College point guard Courtney Vickery, a Notre Dame graduate, averages a team-high 4.4 assists through 13 games. Vickery is third on the team through 13 games in steals with 21 and averages nearly four points a game.

    Advance graduate and Missouri pitcher Garrett Broshuis allowed five runs in five and two-thirds innings in a 5-2 loss to UNC-Wilmington. Broshuis gave up seven hits, struck out two and walked three in his first start of the season.

    Chrissi Glastetter of Jackson ranks 11th nationally in scoring for St. Louis College of Pharmacy in NAIA Division II women's basketball. Glastetter, a senior, averages 19.9 points for the 10-6 Eutectics.

    Cory Gipson, a Richland graduate and Scott County Central transfer, is enjoying a strong season for Austin Peay State University's men's basketball team, second in the Ohio Valley Conference. Gipson has started every game for the Govs and averages nearly 30 minutes per game. Gipson leads the team in assists, averaging 2.8 a game, is second in steals with 29, averages 7.8 points and is shooting 77.5 percent from the free-throw line.

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