Logan men win thriller

By JOHN D. HOMAN, Logan Media Services

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

While Mandela was not referencing a sporting event, his words certainly fit the situation at hand Wednesday night in Robinson as the John A. Logan College men’s basketball team overcame a 21-point second-half deficit to defeat Lincoln Trail, 72-68.

Vols’ freshman guard DeVaughn Johnson penetrates the lane in game action Wednesday. Johnson finished with four points. (Logan Media Services)

Erasing a 21-point deficit seemed like an impossible task, especially on the road. But this Vols’ team refused to lose. Led by freshman forwards James Williams and Jay Johnson, Logan slowly began hacking away at the point spread.

By the 12-minute mark, Logan had pulled to within seven at 56-49. At 8:22, the Vols were within one at 56-55 following a pair of free tosses by Julian Hernandez. And with 6:46 to play, the Vols took the lead at 57-56 on a tip-in basket by Johnson.

The host Statesmen valiantly tried to restore order with a basket by Jesse Tesmer at 58-57, but JALC freshman forward Sondell Conner answered with a stickback. A made shot in the lane from freshman transfer Connor Wheeler gave the visitors a three-point lead at 61-58.

Tesmer responded again with a tip-in to trim the Logan lead to one. The Vols, however, would not relinquish the lead again, hitting just enough free throws late to secure the victory.

“It was an unbelievable effort,” said Vols first-year head coach Kyle Smithpeters. “We very easily could have stopped playing when we got down 21, but we didn’t. We kept battling and that’s what I really like about this group of kids. Despite being a young team, we fought back hard. That’s what we preach to them every day in practice – not to give up because sometimes things aren’t going to go your way.”

Williams, who was the team’s second-half spark with nine of his 11 points, said his mindset was simple – to keep playing hard.

“I appreciate the fact that my coaches and teammates trust me, so I want to reward them by playing as hard as I can to help us win,” he said. “Tonight was tough. We were down 21 and had to dig ourselves out of that hole. Fortunately, we kept our composure and ended up getting the ‘W.’”

Sophomore post player Aaron Adeoye led the Vols in scoring with 17 points. Jay Johnson checked in with 14. Williams was the only other Logan player in double digits with 13. Wheeler and Hernandez contributed seven each. Conner finished with six, including a thunderous first-half dunk. DeVaughn Johnson netted four and Michael Schmidt and Pierre House had two.

Caleb Begle led the Statesmen with 30 points. He was 6-of-12 from long range, including five of his first six.

The Vols made 28-of-59 shots, but were only 1-of-12 from beyond the three-point arc. Logan owned the boards to the tune of 44-to-28 with Jay Johnson tops with 12 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end. Conner had eight rebounds. Wheeler led in assists with eight.

It was Conner who was assigned to Begle in the second half and the 6-foot-5 Chicago native used his size and wingspan to shut down Lincoln Trail’s top shooter. Begle only connected on two of his last 10 shots.

Now 6-1 overall and 1-0 in the GRAC, the Vols return home Saturday to take on undefeated Shawnee in a 3 p.m. match.

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