Photos by Bill Roseberry
(Left) SWIC’s Hunter Reine, the all-time leading scorer for the Roxana Shells, boxes out for a rebound following a free throw on Monday vs. LCCC at George C. Terry River Bend Arena. (Right) Alton High grad De’Antae McMurray drives the lane for SWIC while being guarded by fellow Alton product Devon “Vo” Hart (12) of LCCC.
De’Antae McMurray and Hunter Reine are finding their niche at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. They are trying to make the Blue Storm the perfect Storm.
Both produced enough Monday to propel SWIC past Lewis and Clark Community College, 79-72, at the George C. Terry River Bend Area. The Blue Storm improved to 14-8, while the Trailblazers dropped to 10-11.
“It’s just good to get a win,” longtime SWIC coach Jay Harrington said. The Blue Storm had lost three of their last four games.
McMurray, a guard and Alton High graduate, stirred SWIC. The 6-foot freshman scored 13 points, handed out five assists and collected five rebounds. Reine, a 6-9 sophomore and Roxana High product, supplied eight points and three rebounds.
“We have had some rough spots, but the season is going good lately,” said Reine, eyeing playing for an NCAA Division I school next year. “I felt like I played well tonight.”
He’s undecided about where he’s going next season, but the Shells’ career scoring and rebounding leader is flexible about his future.
“I’m kind of keeping my options open,” he said. “I’ll have to see what’s the best offer.”
Reine was averaging 7.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s looking to pick up his pace during the stretch run of the season. His coach is seeking the same thing.
“He has to get better,” Harrington said. “But he was sick recently and didn’t practice with us.”
Harrington can’t afford for McMurray to get ill. The point guard played more than 37 minutes against LCCC and kept the Blue Storm’s offense percolating.
“He’s such a good player, but he’s wearing down a little bit,” Harrington said. “We’ve played five road games in our last six games and it’s hard on everybody.”
Nevertheless, McMurray was averaging 10.3 ppg and guiding the team’s attack.
“When we recruited him, we thought he would be more of a two-guard than a point guard for us,” Harrington said. “He’s such a good player that he has moved to the point and done a good job there. We are fortunate to have him.”
And McMurray, already drawing interest from Missouri Valley Conference and Ohio Valley Conference schools, is making the most of his time in Belleville.
“I’m enjoying it here,” he said of SWIC, “and I’ll probably come back next year. There were some other Alton players (JaQuail Townser and Tony Bradley) that came to SWIC and that’s a big reason why I made my decision to play here.”
LCCC coach Doug Stotler, who returned to the Trailblazers this season after former coach Deon Thomas went to UIC, likes McMurray’s poise.
“He’s a really good player and he shows a lot of composure,” Stotler said. “He really came up with some big shots against us.”
Reine and McMurray figured the Terry Arena was a good place to showcase their skills. After all, it was a return to their roots. Friends and family members filled the place and cheered them.
“I was pretty excited to play here. It was kind of like a homecoming,” said Reine, who played nearly 11 minutes.
As for McMurray, he sat out just 2 minutes, 47 seconds. Yet he’s accustomed to filling an iron man role.
“I’ve been playing about 35 minutes every game, so I’m used to it,” he said. “Sometimes it was kind of hard making the transition from high school to college ball. We had some ups and downs at the beginning of the season.”
He anticipates fewer bumps along the way.
“I’m getting pretty comfortable playing at the point,” he said of his refined role.
SWIC is battling for a Great Rivers Athletic Conference championship and then pointing toward a deep run in the NJCAA playoffs. If that happens, it’s likely that McMurray and Reine will be right in the middle of things — like they were at LCCC.