By: Andew Korba
BLUFFTON, Ohio -- The Hiram College men's basketball team outscored Illinois College 34-20 in the second half to erase a seven point halftime deficit, en route to a 71-64 victory at the McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament.
The Terriers have now won four straight and are 7-2 on the season, while the Blueboys fall to 3-6.
Hiram advances to the tournament championship on Wednesday and will take on host Bluffton at 2 p.m.
Senior J.J. Woodson (Oakwood Village, Ohio/Bedford) paced the Terriers with 21 points.
Sophomore Kelvin Jones (Sheffield Lake, Ohio/Brookside) added 17 points, on 7-of-8 shooting, and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Paul Ortiz (Canton, Ohio/McKinley Senior) totaled 14 points, with 11 coming in the second half.
The Terriers jumped out to a 22-13 lead just seven minutes into the game, but Illinois College would control the rest of the half, building a 44-37 lead at the break.
The second half would belong to Hiram as the Terriers chipped away at the deficit and tied the game at 50-50 on a layup by Woodson with 13:27 left to play.
The Blueboys would take the lead three more times, but Hiram would score on its next possession to tie the game each time.
The Terriers jumped in front 59-57 on two free throws from senior Ray Gaston (Warren, Ohio/John F. Kennedy) with 8:36 remaining.
Illinois College would to the game at 59-59, but Hiram played tough defense and limited the Blueboys to just five points in the final 7:56 of the game.
The Terriers would tally the final five points of the game, including a jumper from senior Austen Rekolt (Salem, Ohio/West Branch) with 22 seconds left to put the game away.
Hiram shot 29-of-71 (40.8 percent) from the field and 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from the charity stripe, while Illinois College shot 20-of-63 (31.7 percent) from the field and was an impressive 19-of-20 (95.0 percent) in free throws.
The Terriers won the rebounding battle 46-42 and also outscored the Blueboys 42-28 in the paint.