GODFREY – After absorbing a lopsided loss to Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville earlier this season, Lewis and Clark Community sought something different Monday.
The Trailblazers nearly got it.
They pushed the Blue Storm to the limit, only to sustain a 79-72 defeat at the George C. Terry River Bend Arena. SWIC, which subdued LCCC, 77-58, on Dec. 3, lifted its record to 14-8. LCCC dropped to 10-11.
“It was a pretty good college basketball game,” Trailblazers’ coach Doug Stotler said. “I think they are a notch above us. We took our best swing at them and came up short.
“They are good and we are OK, but getting better.”
Miami product J.J. Cratit and Turkey native Burak Eslik did all they could to make sure the Trailblazers gave it a good swing. Cratit scored 26 points and Eslik added 25 more, including 19 in the first half. LCCC led 31-30 at the break and owned a 53-46 advantage midway through the second half.
“They are really good players,” SWIC coach Jay Harrington said.
Stotler noted, “I thought it was some kind of magic that we got the lead by the end of the first half. I’m not sure I could explain what happened.”
Harrington had a good idea what transpired. The Trailblazers were poised for a payback. Thus, the Blue Storm had to go all-out to defuse them and solve their zone defense.
“We know they are a good team and we’re a good team,” Harrington said. “We haven’t been playing very well, but we were looking to get our game back together. We lost at home Saturday and you don’t lose at home. So it was good to get a win here.”
LCCC’s Devon “Vo” Hart, a 6-foot sophomore and starter, pitched in eight points to force the Blue Storm into a rallying mode. Stotler said Hart, an Alton High graduate, is serving as the heart and soul of the ’Blazers.
“He’s the glue of this team,” Stotler added. “He’s never going to ‘wow’ you with the things he does, but he always does what helps his team and pleases his coach. He’s a mature player and he’s a winner.”
Kyle Lemons scored 17 points and snared six rebounds to pace SWIC. Justin Blanks had 15 points as SWIC made 25 of 50 shots.
Alton High graduate De’Antae McMurray netted 13 points, contributed five assists and three rebounds in 37-plus minutes of play for the winners. Roxana High product Hunter Reine, a 6-9 sophomore, collected eight points and three rebounds.
“It’s a pretty big win for us because we knew it would be a tough game here,” said McMurray, a 6-0 freshman guard.
While SWIC rallied in the second half to shoot ahead 66-60 with six minutes to play, LCCC closed to within 68-66 with 3:46 remaining. Then the Blue Storm went on a 10-2 spurt and closed out the victory.
“They had the tempo going their way in the last seven minutes, particularly the last three minutes,” Stotler said. “We couldn’t overcome it.”
Cratit and Eslik’s scoring boosted the Trailblazers, but the remainder of the players teamed for only 21 points on 6 of 19 shooting. Cratit and Eslik were a combined 17 of 30 from the field.
“It’s hard to win a game when you have just two guys doing that,” Stotler said of the unbalanced scoring.
SWIC 79, LCCC 72
SWIC 38 41 – 79
LCCC 39 33—72
SWIC (14-8) – Ekene Anachebe 2, Justin Blanks 15, De’Antae McMurray 13, Quan Poindexter 8, Kyle Lemons 17, Dez Marshall 5, Chris Galbreath 3, RoMondo Ray 8, Hunter Reine 8. 2FG-19 3FG-6 FT-23 PF-20
LCCC (10-11) – Marquis Rivera 2, J.J. Cratit 26, Mike Sanchez 3, Devon Hart 8, Eldin Salmond 5, Burak Eslik 25, Joan Povera 1. 2FG-13 3FG-10 FT-16 PF-23