December 18, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Two former Carbondale Terriers are making a huge impact with the John A. Logan College women’s basketball team this season.

McKena Miller, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, and Kaili Bacon, a 5-foot-8 freshman forward, are among the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, and steals.

Miller is averaging 12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Twice, the Southern Illinoisan Player of the Year in high school, Miller attended her freshman year at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) before transferring to Logan this fall. It’s a decision she does not regret.

“It’s been a great move for me to come to Logan,” Miller said. “Although UMSL wasn’t the right fit for me, I am very thankful for the experience. It definitely shaped me as a player and as a student. And it helped me make the transition smoother here.”

Miller said she enjoys taking on a leadership role, mentoring the myriad freshmen on the squad.

“Having a year of college ball under my belt allows me the opportunity to help my teammates if they need any help. I feel much more confident in myself now than I did a year ago.”

Miller was quoted in the preseason as saying that she thought this year’s Vols’ team could be “special” and she has no reason to feel differently now as Logan posted an 11-1 record through its first 12 games.

“I could see right away that we had the talent and intelligence to win games,” she said. “No matter which five girls are on the floor at the time, we all want to win and we all pull for one another. We just have to put four good quarters of basketball together instead of two or three. If we can do that, we should continue to win more than our share of games.”

Miller was a four-year South Seven All-Conference and All-South performer with the Terriers.

“I think the best part of my game is the mid-range jump shot,” she said. “I can drive to the basket some and I can hit the 3-pointer some, but the 15-to-18-footer coming off a pick is my best shot.”

First-year JALC head coach Amanda Shelby is glad Miller decided to play her sophomore year close to home.

“Not only is McKena a great player, but she is a strong leader for us,” Shelby said. “Every day, I know that she is going to bring her best for this team.  She plays hard and has a good basketball IQ.  She knows what is takes to be at the next level and she helps our freshmen understand how they have to put in the hard work and dedication to get there.  I wish she would look for her shot more because she is another scoring threat that we have.”

Bacon is the team’s second-leading scorer at 17.3 points per game. She has hit 50 percent of her field goal attempts, including a stunning 43 percent of her triples. Additionally, she yanks down 5.6 rebounds a game to go along with 1.8 steals.

“The transition to college ball hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be,” Bacon said. “I give credit to Coach (Marialice) Jenkins at Carbondale for preparing me for the next level. I’m used to the pace of the game here and prefer it fast. I think it suits me well.”

Bacon said that because she played post a great deal of the time with the Terriers, she is comfortable hitting turn-around jump shots from 12-to-15 feet out.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I would shoot it as well as I have so far, so I’m very pleased with that,” she said. “Defensively, I take a lot of pride in my game. Twice, I won defensive awards at Carbondale.”

Bacon was a three-year varsity performer with the Terriers. She was selected South Seven All-Conference both her junior and senior seasons.

“The reason I think we have enjoyed so much success this season is that any differences we may have with one another we are able to put aside when we’re on the floor,” she said. “We all have the same goal – to win games. And we have worked hard to reach that goal. It was definitely a good decision for me to come to Logan.”

Shelby said Bacon has been a great fit with the Vols.

“Kaili has been a scoring threat for most of the season. She has a scorer’s mentality, but also brings a strong defensive presence and is not afraid to get inside and work for the rebounds. In high school, Kaili didn’t get to play outside a lot, so I know her game is just now flourishing,” Shelby said. “She has the ability to step outside and play a guard position. Having a team like ours that has so many scoring weapons can be hard for the other team to defend.”

Shelby added that both Bacon and Miller are players she can count on to help guide the team against stiff competition.

“They can both score, rebound, play defense and lead. They also play so well together when they are on the floor together and get their teammates involved in the offense, as well. It is great having such local talent and wish we had this every year.”

With a 5-0 record in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, the Vols are in a position to make a run at a league title.

“Beating Wabash at their place a couple of weeks ago when we were behind by eight going into the fourth quarter gave us added confidence,” Miller said. “We can accomplish a great deal when we are all working together as a team. I just hope our local communities realize how good a team that we have and will make the time to come out and watch us play some. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.”

Logan closes out the first half of the season with a noon game Saturday against perennial power, Mineral Area College.