South Suburban Bulldogs win regional basketball championship, move on to national stage

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South Suburban
The South Suburban College Bulldogs have again won the Region IV championship in the NJCAA Division II. (Photo: Ajia Harris)
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By Ajia Harris

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (March 10, 2022) – The South Suburban College Bulldogs continued their undefeated season with a 74-73 win over Waubonsee Community College on Saturday, March 5. The win earned South Suburban the National Junior College Athletics Association Region IV District 3 Championship.

The team will now move on to the NJCAA Division II National Championship Tournament next week.

A close game

Just a few seconds into the game, freshman Damontae Taylor — whose 60% field goal percentage is one of the best in Region 4 — scored. Later on, Nuri Knighten followed up with a slam dunk for a score of 35-25 in the first half, but the Waubonsee Chiefs would catch up in the second half.

Longtime Bulldogs coach John Pigatti stalks the sideline during Saturday’s game. (Photo: Ajia Harris)

As the action on the court ensued, head coach John Pigatti — in his 16th season — yelled throughout the game, giving notes and criticisms. He broke one of his clipboards at one point as he passionately explained something to his players.

The final score was 74-73, favoring the Bulldogs.

Winning, and looking ahead

The SSC Bulldogs have now won their 12th Region IV Championship under Coach Pigatti’s leadership. The team has placed nine times at NJCAA Division II National Championship Tournament, and hopes to do so again this year. Coach Pigatti has won Region IV Coach of the Year 11 times. He’s also the recipient of the 2017 Jack Bennett Man of the Year Award.

Assistant Coach Fabian Chatman, who is in his first year of coaching at SSC, said that the team has been working for six months, and for nationals they will tighten up on their defense.

Head Coach Pigatti said the team will need to shoot better free throws and perform better on defense.

“We didn’t run our sets at all like we were supposed to. … Guys just forgot stuff,” Pigatti said. “We had some foul trouble. … Damontae Taylor fouled out and that hurt us a little bit, but at the end, Damarco Minor made a big-time defensive play, so Damontae could make an easy shot, and we won the game.”

South Suburban
The Bulldogs gather themselves during a break in the action on Saturday. (Photo: Ajia Harris)

Leading players

Leading players included Damarco Minor, Camron Donaltan, and Damontae Taylor.

Camron Donatlan said he felt good about winning an award on Saturday: “Getting something accomplished with my team is just a good feeling. We’ve been working all year,” he said. Donatlan has the highest field goal percentage in Region 4 at 60.4% (226-374).

“Mentally, I feel good about [winning]. We had a wicked pre-season. We’ve all been fighting hard,” Damontae Taylor said. “We ran blood, sweat, and tears. … Coach wrote up how many suicides [we’ve done this season]. If I told you the number, you probably wouldn’t believe it.” Taylor is currently the Region 4 leader in steals with 114.

“We have good team chemistry. This is the closest game we’ve had all year,” Damontae said after Saturday’s victory.

Damarco Minor is the current leader in total points in Region 4, with 583. He also leads the region in free throw percentage (82.2%), assists (169), and minutes played (971).

Minor, Taylor, and Donatlan plan to play at a four-year university.

The national tournament will take place in Danville, Illinois, with South Suburban College facing off against Florida Gateway College at 1 p.m.

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