CENTRALIA, Ill. – Both Wabash Valley College basketball teams passed their first road test of the Great Rivers Athletic Conference season at Kaskaskia Tuesday night. The Lady Warriors opened with a 68-64 win over the Blue Angels to improve to 2-0 in the GRAC. The 73-70 overtime victory achieved by the Warriors in the late game may have been even more important, after a home loss to Southeastern in the conference opener.
Jaquan Lynch buried a 3-point field goal from the right side at the buzzer to give the Warriors (4-2, 1-1 in GRAC) the OT win.
“It was probably fun to watch as a fan,” said Wabash Valley coach Mike Carpenter. “But when you put your livelihood in the hands of 18 and 19-year-olds to make decisions on the fly sometimes you don’t realize what a big game you’re watching.”
Mike Donaldson sent the game into overtime with a tip in with 6.1 seconds left in regulation.
The loss snapped a 6-game winning streak for Kaskaskia (6-2, 1-1), a team with three Division I transfers picked for second in the GRAC.
WVC could never pull away from Kaskaskia (6-2, 1-1) in the second half and OT, despite building numerous leads in the 4-to-6 point range. The Warriors squandered the opportunities through turnovers (an unofficial count of 25), missed free throws – and even a technical foul for having six players on the court.
In the end, Lynch saved the Warriors from themselves.
“They showed a tremendous amount of fight and heart,” Carpenter said. “We made some boneheaded plays and had some terrible turnovers, but just the improvements we made on defense and our rebounding, I was real proud of our effort tonight.”
The Warriors, who host Olney Central on Wednesday in their next game, placed five players in double figures. Eric Hopkins, who hit three 3-pointers, led with 15 points. Denzel Smith added 14 points, while Keith Collins finished with 13, Brian Wilson 11 and Donaldson 10.
Ronnye Beamon led Kaskaskia with 23 points. Charles Cooper added 19.
The Lady Warriors trailed 49-40 in the second half before embarking on a 19-3 tear that turned the game around. Then, WVC (4-2, 2-0 in GRAC) finished strong, outscoring the host Blue Angels 5-1 down the stretch to win the game.
“That was a gutty, gritty win we got tonight,” said Lady Warrior coach Zach Loll. “We were a little flat in the first half, but in the second half we got it put together and made a run.”
Loll said the turnaround was caused by the defense “taking away the easy baskets they were getting,” and the offense “by attacking the basket.’
Tyshee Towner led the way with 25 points, closely followed by Desiree Rhodes with 22. Sophomore Kelly Fruit opened things up for the taller Lady Warriors by warming up from the 3-point line in the second half and finishing with 12 points. Kaelea Hodges, who Loll praised for her work on the boards, was next with 11 points.
Kaskaskia, last year’s GRAC runnerup, has struggled out of the gate for new coach Adam Esses. The Blue Angels are now 3-5 on the season and 0-2 in the GRAC.