November 30, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – The John A. Logan College women’s and men’s basketball teams remain unbeaten one-third of the way through the regular-season schedule.

The Lady Vols are off to an 8-0 start under first-year head coach Amanda Shelby. It is the best start in 20 years for the once-dominant junior college program. And although this year’s team will be hard-pressed to match or better the ‘94-’95 school record of 33 straight wins to open the season, this Vols’ squad is a fun one to watch.

Just last week, Logan rallied from a second-half deficit to nip visiting Southeastern Illinois, 71-69, on a last-second shot by Goreville native, Haley Darnell.

Team starters include the Carbondale duo of sophomore McKena Miller and freshman Kaili Bacon; freshman sensation Tiaunna Watkins; redshirt freshman post player Gabby Sanders; and freshman point guard extraordinaire, Ariel Crump.

Top reserves in addition to Darnell have been freshmen Sierra Frazier, Ternaecia Ashley, Johnna Hines, Aliah Acker, and Cheyenne Abbadusky.

“Of course, you go into every season thinking positively and hoping for a perfect season, but we weren’t sure what we had with so many freshmen on the roster,” said Shelby, who served the previous 10 years as an assistant to the now-retired Marty Hawkins. “We knew we had some talent coming into the year, but still…we weren’t sure how things were going to piece together. So far, so good. This team never gives up. It’s a great feeling to still be perfect at 8-0.”

The Logan men are led by fourth-year head coach Kyle Smithpeters, a Harrisburg native and former player at Southeastern Illinois College and SIUC.

Last year, the Volunteers finished 27-7 last year. They won the Great Rivers Athletic Conference championship for a second straight season and went on to capture the Region 24 and District 16 titles to advance to the national tournament for the first time in 20 years.

This year’s bunch is picking right up where last year’s bunch left off and may even be raising the bar to a higher level. Logan is presently averaging 98.5 points per game offensively, while allowing 78 points, a 20-point disparity. The 10-0 start is believed to be the best at Logan since a mid-1980s team won 15 straight to open the season.

Key home wins this season have come against Three Rivers and Southeastern Illinois. Even more impressive was a streak of six straight road victories, including a 78-69 win over Mineral Area College despite falling behind 24-4.

The Vols are paced offensively by the steady hand of sophomore guard Devontavius Payne of Carbondale, who is averaging over 22 points per game. He is getting plenty of help from freshman sensation, Michael Tucker; sophomore sharpshooter Jarvis Calhoun; sophomore preseason All-American candidate, Ranell Crossland, sophomore glass specialist, Tamas Bruce, and freshman jump shooter, Jalen Perry.

Sophomore point guard Justin Lukens of Herrin leads the team in assists and is a settling influence on the squad. Although not counted upon to score much, he has delivered some huge 3-point baskets in wins over Three Rivers and Southwestern Illinois that sparked rallies.

“All in all, it’s hard to complain about being 10-0,” said Smithpeters whose team is now back to full strength after having to play without the services of Crossland (ankle) and Perry (funeral) for a few games. “We are fortunate to have a lot of talent, a lot of depth. As you can see, we have no problem putting points on the board. We just need to find a way to not give up so many on the other end. If we can do that, we might be pretty tough to beat.”

Both Logan squads return to the hardwood Wednesday evening in Carterville. It is a conference match with the Lakers of Lake Land College of Mattoon. The women’s game is set for 5 and the men will follow at 7.