February 21, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – The John A. Logan College men’s basketball team captured the Great Rivers Athletic Conference championship Saturday evening with a hard-fought 94-92 home win over the Lakers of Lake Land College.

The league title is the second straight for the Vols under third-year head coach Kyle Smithpeters. Last year, Logan had to share the title with Lake Land, but not this year.

“It’s nice to win it  – no doubt about it – but I want winning the conference to be something we expect to do,” Smithpeters said.

Logan managed to win the game despite a Herculean effort from Lake Land’s David Franklin, who poured in 43 points on 16-of-25 shooting from the field. He was 4-of-5 from long range and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. He also led the Lakers in rebounds with 12. It may have been the best individual performance within the league all season.

“My hat’s off to Franklin,” Smithpeters said. “He was giving our guys fits. Lake Land played hard. We got up double digits on them in the second half and they came right back on us. Our intensity level wasn’t where it should have been today, but theirs certainly was. I feel quite fortunate to come away with the win. I’m glad the game didn’t last another minute or two.”

While it was Franklin who exceeded expectations, two Logan players were pretty special in their own right. Sophomore post player Russell Woods filled the basket with 23 points, including a barrage of thunderous, highlight-reel dunks. He was 9-of-15 from the field and added six rebounds.

Woods said he’s just glad the Vols could post a win.

“This was a tough one. Lake Land played a great game. They pushed us hard,” he said. “As for me, I just needed to be aggressive with the basketball. I want to dunk it when I can. It fires me up, and I think it fires our team up.”

Another sophomore, guard Martavian Payne, knocked down 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including a pair of triples. He led the team in rebounds with eight, added three assists and two steals and played nearly the entire game without committing any turnovers.

“I thought both were outstanding today,” Smithpeters said. “That’s the kind of production I have come to expect of my sophomores.”

There were many other major contributions to the Vols’ win Saturday. Sophomore point guard Connor Wheeler dropped in 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field with two huge trifectas. Sophomore post player Jordan Martin was 6-of-7 inside the paint for 12 points. Freshman Ranell Crossland accounted for eight points. Freshman Tamas Bruce flipped in six as did sophomore transfer, Tyler Scott. In fact, it was Scott’s best game of the season. He was 3-of-5 from the field with a dunk and added four rebounds and an assist.

“Props to him,” Smithpeters said. “Tyler had an outstanding week of practice and deserved the extra minutes today. He was impressive to watch. The energy level he brought to the game was exactly what we needed. Today, he played like we thought he could play when we recruited him. Better late than never.”

Scott was pleased to contribute.

“I asked coach what I could do to play more and he said to bring more energy to my game. I did …and he rewarded me for it today. It was kind of exciting. I took the ball to the basket more than I had been.”

Poor free-throw shooting by the Vols nearly cost them the game. Logan only converted 1-of-9 down the stretch, including 5-of-17 in the second half and finished 11-of-27 for the game or 41 percent.

“That’s as poorly as we have shot them all year,” Smithpeters said. “I’m just glad it didn’t cost us the game.”

Lake Land falls to 7-8 in the league and 11-17 overall.

Logan improves to 13-2 in the GRAC and 23-5 overall. The Vols also clinched outright possession of the Region 24 title with the win Saturday. The Vols next host Lincoln Trail at 7 p.m. Wednesday. It is the regular season home finale.