January 15, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – The John A. Logan College men’s basketball team rallied from a six-point second-half deficit to defeat Lewis & Clark College Wednesday, 98-88, in Region 24 play.

With the win, the Volunteers improve to 13-3 overall. The Trailblazers fall to 6-8 overall.

Sophomores Russell Woods and Connor Wheeler enjoyed big games for Logan. Woods was top scorer with 27 points. He was 10-of-14 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line. He also tied for the team lead in rebounds with six.

“I’m playing with a lot more confidence now than I was last year,” Woods said. “I know teams are looking to try to stop me, so I do my best to let the game come to me. I like getting the ball at crunch time. If I’m going to be a leader on this team, I knew that I had to step up my game and be comfortable in that role.”

Wheeler, a Du Quoin grad, was practically flawless. He scored 12 points, including a pair of 3-point baskets; dished out a season-high 10 assists and accounted for six rebounds with no turnovers.

“This was one of those nights where we couldn’t find our mojo that easily,” Wheeler said. “We couldn’t get on that run to put the game away early. We got up double figures and let them come creeping back. Fortunately, we figured things out late and got things going our way.”

Wheeler said his primary goal is to take care of the basketball and distribute it to the open man.

“When I was told I had 10 assists, I thought that was easy. I’m very fortunate to have such talented players around me. It makes my job a whole lot easier.”

Another sophomore guard, Martavian Payne, was also in double figures for the Vols with 11 points. Sophomore A. J. Riley followed with 10 points. Freshman Ranell Crossland tacked on nine. Jordan Martin notched eight points. Carbondale’s Devontavius Payne collected seven and Herrin High grad Bobby Mannie chipped in five points. Totaling four points was Tyler Scott. Tamas Bruce finished with three and Jeremiah Jackson added two.

Lewis & Clark was led by J.J. Cratit and Burak Eslik with 20 points apiece.

The Vols shot 56 percent from the field for the game (33-of-59) and led 43-40 at the break. Lewis & Clark stayed close due to rock-solid free-throw shooting. The visitors connected on 30-of-35 tosses or 86 percent.

“Hats off to Lewis & Clark. They played well,” said JALC head coach Kyle Smithpeters. “I told our guys that they’re not a bad team when they hit their shots and they certainly hit them tonight. They got us on some backdoor lay-ups and got us on some threes. Fortunately, we were able to do some things well, too, on the offensive end. We just had a hard time stringing runs together.”

Smithpeters said the Vols are getting high-percentage shots.

“Both Russell and Jordan are shooting well over 50 percent from the field,” he said. “I like the way we’re working inside out with the basketball. As for Connor, he was the difference in the game tonight. He was the guy out there orchestrating things for us and making sure that Russell got the ball where he needed to get it.

“And he got 12 points,” Smithpeters said. “We hadn’t played him as many minutes up to this point because we want him to have fresh legs the second half of the season, but tonight, we leaned on him a lot and he delivered.”

The Vols return to Great Rivers Athletic Conference play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Lake Land College in Mattoon.