Suddenly, Saturday’s GRAC game between Wabash Valley and Olney Central has become uber-important. That’s because Wednesday’s 92-85 loss at Kaskaskia has put the Warriors two losses down in the league race.
The 7:30 p.m. home game against the Blue Knights, which follows a 5:30 p.m. women’s matchup, is an opportunity to at least hold ground at home. Not to mention that the result will linger through the holidays as this is the last game until the season resumes Jan. 8.
WVC will enter the game at 6-5 overall and 1-2 in the GRAC. Olney Central is 6-2 and 1-1 in the league. The Knights have defeated Kaskaskia, 100-96, and fallen to Southeastern, 92-89.
The Blue Devils spoiled the return of WVC’s Keith Collins from the injured list with their victory in Centralia Wednesday. Collins led WVC with 14 points — one of six Warriors in double figures — but it was not enough.
Sam Thompson hit a jump shot to give Wabash Valley a 31-26 in the first half, before Kaskaskia (7-2, 1-1) scored nine straight points to take the lead for good. At halftime, the Warrior deficit was 40-33.
Collins’ 3-point field goal with one minute to play pulled WVC to within 85-83. D’Marnier Cunningham then scored on an inside play followed by a 3-pointer — sandwiched around a Brienne Miles miss at the free throw line — and Kaskaskia’s was lead 90-83 with only 35 seconds left.
Jaquan Lynch, who had three 3-balls, scored 13 points for the Warriors, with Chris Jones adding 12. Mikeal Donaldson, Tyrone Sherman and Thompson all finished with 11.
Kevin Swanson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, led Kaskaskia with 35 points.
With Collins back, the Warriors are as close to full strength as they can be, considering the loss already of their top two newcomers — 6-foot-10 Sidecki Johnson to the NBA Developmental League, and Wesley Afolayan to dismissal.
Olney Central, which defeated Vincennes, 80-46, Wednesday, is led by John Brown at 19 points per game. Jaquan Grissett is next at 11.9 points, then Tyrone Mitchell at 11. Grissett leads the Blue Knights on the glass with 5.1 rebounds per game.
• The women’s game features a similar scenario. Saddled with their first GRAC loss by Kaskaskia, the Lady Warriors don’t want to carry a two-game league losing streak into the break — though they do play two non-conference games at the Olney Central Classic on Dec. 13-14.
The Lady Blue Knights also have lost to Kaskaskia, 88-77, while defeating Southeastern, 91-75. Kelsee Ennis, a sophomore guard, leads the way for the IECC sister school with a per-game scoring mark of 16 points. Samantha Shoulders leads the team in rebounding at 6.3 per game.