BELLEVILLE — The drought is over for the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm.
All-American Janelle Cannon scored 31 points -- including a remarkable 19-of-20 effort from the foul line -- and two Blue Storm teammates also scored in double figures as SWIC ended its regular season Saturday with an 83-70 win over Kaskaskia College.
Red-hot from the start, SWIC built a 45-33 halftime lead then survived a defensive lapse in the second half to defeat the Blue Angels and clinch the top-seed for the NJCAA Region 24 Tournament, which begins Tuesday at Rend Lake College in Ina. The top seed is the first since the 1999-2000 season for SWIC.
"It's nice to get the top seed, because the girls have worked hard for it. But we still realize that we need to continue to play well because there are a lot of good teams who will be at the Region 24 Tournament,'' Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger said. "We played well today. To be able to play like we did on sophomore day is a nice way for my sophomores, Janelle (Cannon), Danielle Duncan and Crissa (Washington) to go out.''
SWIC (22-5) will play either Shawnee College or Lincoln Trail College at 1 p.m. on Tuesday in Ina.
Kaskaskia (21-7), getting six 3-pointers -- including four from Adrina Lavern -- in the first half, trailed just 23-22 following a basket by Makeba Elliott midway through the first half.
But led by Cannon, Duncan and freshman LaTeesha Deloach, SWIC outscored the Blue Angels 22-11 over the final eight minutes to lead 45-33 at halftime.
"We didn't do a very good job of guarding their 3-point shooters in the first half, but fortunately we shot the ball very well ourselves,'' Juenger said. "Plus Breanna (Baker) was just great on the boards and Adrianna (McNeal) doesn't score much, but she does so many other good things when she's in the game. I thought both her and Bre (Baker) played very well.''
Kaskaskia rallied to within eight points in the second half, as Brandi Riddle scored all 15 of her points and Miranda Burroughs tallied nine of her 14.
But each time the Blue Angels cut into the margin, Deloach, Cannon or Duncan would step up and make a play for the Blue Storm.
Cannon entered the day leading the nation in scoring with a 24.8 points per game average. Deloach added 16 points and Duncan, an O'Fallon graduate, chipped in with 13.
"Danielle played very well and made some big plays for us today. But I really think the whole key in this is T's (Deloach),'' Juenger said. "If she can handle the basketball for us against pressure, it will free up Janelle (Cannon) from doing it. Last year, teams were wearing her out because she was having to handle it and they were so physical with her."
Seeded second in the Region 24 Tournament, Kaskaskia was led by Riddle's 15 points while Burroughs and Lavern added 14 apiece.