INA — Talk about saving the best for last.
On a night when her team needed her most, Southwestern Illinois College sophomore Janelle Cannon put on one of the best performances of her career in Friday's championship game of the Region 24 Women's Basketball Tournament.
Cannon tossed in a career-high and school-record 49 points -- including 11 in overtime -- as SWIC captured its second straight Region 24 Tournament title with a 106-99 victory over Kaskaskia College.
Although both the Blue Angels and Blue Storm had already clinched bids to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament bids with semifinal wins Thursday, a large turnout at Rend Lake College still was treated one of the best performances in Region 24 history as Cannon, who was battling fatigue and leg cramps late in regulation and through overtime, refused to let the Blue Storm lose.
"The difference in the game was one player again, Janelle Cannon. Once she figures it out, she's got a chance to go places,'' Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger said. "I didn't think this game would be as up-tempo as it was with both teams going to nationals anyway.
"But it's SWIC and Kaskaskia. Two longtime rivals. I think the people who paid $5 to see this one got their money's worth.''
Lateesha Deloach and Danielle Duncan added 16 points apiece for SWIC, which along with Kaskaskia, advances to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament, March 18-23 in Salina, Kan.
And after their battle Friday, both teams will need time to recuperate.
SWIC, which got 11 points each from Duncan and Cannon, led 43-31 at halftime and stretched its lead to 15 points early in the second half.
But the Blue Angels responded. With Alex Stanford (26 points) and Miranda Burroughs (25) seemingly scoring at will, Kaskaskia surged to a seven-point lead late in the second half.
But Cannon, who scored 38 of her points in the second half and overtime, stepped up again with eight straight points to rally the Blue Storm.
The score was tied at 88 at the end of regulation.
After Adrina Levern and SWIC freshman Breanna Baker scored in the opening minute of overtime, Cannon again seized control.
The 5-foot-9 Louisville recruit scored 10 of the next 12 points as SWIC opened its lead against the exhausted Blue Angels.
"I don't think I've ever seen a game like this one. It is the best JUCO game I've seen in a long, long time,'' Juenger said. "It's probably been 2001 since we were the top seed and also won the tournament.
"The credit goes to the girls. They've worked very hard for this national tournament bid. We're going to give them off until Wednesday, then we'll start to prepare for the trip.''