MT. CARMEL – Words to describe Wabash Valley College’s first-half performance against Olney Central College might include: perfect, flawless.
For the first 20 minutes of Wednesday’s Great Rivers Athletic Conference men’s game at Spencer Sports Center, the Warriors were that good.
“It’s one of the best halves of basketball I’ve been associated with in 21 years,” said WVC coach Mike Carpenter after his team’s eventual 83-58 victory. “Offensively and defensively, we played well and moved the ball. We hit shots, defended and did a good job.”
Everything clicked for the Warriors as they steamed to a 47-16 lead by halftime. WVC shot 61 percent from the floor while holding the visitors to a paltry 15 percent from the floor and only one offensive rebound. The half included a thundering slam dunk by Warrior forward Kasey Elam that simply defied science and logic, enough so for the game officials to actually wave off the score on a technicality.
In the second half, things weren’t as pretty - understandably so - according to Carpenter. “It’s hard to sustain that over the course of a 40-minute game. It got sloppy at times in the second half,” he said. “We told them at halftime that coach (Mike) Burris and Olney have a good program. He will not let them give up.”
Olney Central (3-7, 0-2 in the GRAC) did outscore Wabash in the second half, and the Blue Knights shooting percentage did climb to 31 percent by game’s end. Dominic Jackson led the way with 19 points.
WVC (5-2, 2-1 in GRAC) was led by guard Sam Thompson, who returned to the lineup following an injury to score 18 points, including 6-of-8 from the field. Jaquan Lynch added 15 points and Mike Donaldson 13.
If Elam’s momentous slam dunk looks as good on video as it did for the 800 fans in attendance, it will no doubt land a spot on ESPN’s Top Ten replays (as Lynch’s overtime 3-point winner vs. Kaskaskia did last Thursday at No. 3 on the list). On a breakaway, Elam threw the ball down with such force that it never went completely through the net, instead coming back up through the rim dragging the net with it. The ball then came to rest on the back of the rim, still tangled in the netting.
After a short discussion, the officials ruled that since the ball didn’t actually go through the net to the floor, the basket could not be counted. Elam took care of that seconds later, with another breakaway and two-handed slam that completed its’ 2-point trajectory.
Next up for Wabash Valley: the need for more perfection Saturday at No. 1-ranked Vincennes, a team the Warriors lost to three times last year (including a near-upset loss in the Region 24 semifinals).
“The difference between last year and this year is our teams want to play (Vincennes),” Carpenter said. “I can’t really say that was the case last year with the exception of the tournament. But I think our kids want this. They’ve been talking about it. At the same time, sometimes you have to be careful of what you wish for.”
In the women’s game, WVC came to life late in the first half after a sluggish start and eventually put away Olney Central, 73-60. The win kept the Lady Warriors alone atop the GRAC standings, at 3-0. Olney Central (2-7 overall) fell to 1-1 in the league with the loss.
“We were still trying to get a little turkey worked off,” chuckled WVC coach Zach Loll on his club’s slow start following an 8-day layoff that included Thanksgiving. “But our girls are also on the internet, they see what Olney’s record is and were probably looking ahead to our game at Vincennes Saturday night.”
WVC led at halftime, 34-30, despite an arc line barrage by Olney Central. The Blue Knights hit 8 3-point field goals in the first half, before cooling off in the second half with only 3.
Olney outshot the hosts from the field (38 to 36 percent), but the Lady Warriors took 18 more shots. WVC was also commanding on the boards, with a 54-35 rebounding advantage.
Kaela Hodges recorded a double-double, with 15 points and 14 rebounds, to lead the way for Wabash Valley (7-3, 3-0), winners of four straight games. Carley Childress added 14 points, Tyshee Towner 12 points and Sydney Small 10.