ROCKFORD, Ill. — The No. 2 seeded Genesee Community College Cougars men’s basketball team survived a thriller in Friday night’s NJCAA Div. III National Semifinal, outlasting No. 6 Dallas-Eastfield, 77-76, behind a 36-point effort from freshman Jalen Willis.

“It was a heavyweight bout with two of the best teams in the country,” said GCC head coach Terry George. :The game went back and forth throughout the game and we made some winning plays down the stretch. Jalen Willis was huge today and Antwan Williams scored two big baskets in the last three minutes.”

Friday’s victory came on the heels of a 96-78 quarterfinal victory over No. 10 Joliet Junior College.

The Cougars will now play for the NJCAA Div. III title against No. 4 North Lake on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Rock Valley College.

Willis scored 22 of his game-high 36 points during the second half, a performance which included 9-of-10 shooting from the field over the final 20 minutes of play. The Genesee freshman also secured nine rebounds to help Genesee earn its 20th consecutive victory. Willis played all but three minutes of Friday’s Div. III semifinal.

Spencer Simes paced Dallas-Eastfield with a team-high 21 points, and Mike King added 16 points off the bench, but it wasn’t enough.

On Saturday, the Cougars will be searching for the program’s first-ever national title. Genesee has won two NJCAA Div. III Region III championships under George, who has been at the helm for nine seasons. George is a former All-American and is a GCC Athletics Hall of Fame inductee. George is assisted by Batavia High School alums Justin Washington and Jalen Smith.

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