BELLEVILLE — With his once deep basketball team decimated by injuries, Southwestern Illinois College men's basketball coach Jay Harrington went back to the basics last week in preparing the Blue Storm for Lincoln Trail College.
And for Harrington it all begins with old-fashioned hard work.
Sophomore Brandon Book scored six of his 16 points and combined with freshman Vashawn Ruffin to make four free throws in the final 15.5 seconds of overtime as SWIC held off Lincoln Trail 78-74 in a Great Rivers Athletic Conference game.
Forced into the extra five-minute session when Lincoln Trail sophomore Jake Newton hit a 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds left in regulation, SWIC trailed 72-71 before Book, a former all-state selection at Central, made two free throws with 47.8 seconds left.
Following a missed shot by the Statesmen's Jesse Tesmer, Book made one of two free throws before combining with Ruffin to ice the game at the foul line.
"I'm very proud of this basketball team for how hard it worked in trying to get ready for this and get in shape,'' said Harrington, whose team improved to 9-3 and 3-1 in the GRAC. "With all of the injuries and getting back into condition, I thought we played extremely well against a very good basketball team.
"Starting the second half of the season and giving the kind of effort that we gave today, it's a very big win for this basketball team.''
Freshman Romondo Ray added 15 points for SWIC, while Ruffin (12 points), JaQuail Townser (11) and Colin Ferguson (10) also scored in double figures for the Blue Storm.
While Book and Ruffin made big plays in overtime, it was the play of the 6-foot-8 Ray and 6-10 Ferguson who kept the Blue Storm close during the first half.
With sophomore Dennis Hightower scoring 11 of his 18 points, Lincoln Trail twice led by nine during the first half. But with Ray and Ferguson combining for 19 points, the Blue Storm trailed just 32-30 at halftime.
Newton, a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit, hit a jumper at the end of the half, to give his team the lead.
"The kid can really play and he's a great shooter,'' Harrington said of Newton. "If he's used right, he'll really help them (SIU-Edwardsville).
"I was very pleased with Romondo (Ray) and Colin (Ferguson). Their offense kept us close in the first half. I thought our guards picked it up in the second half.
Especially the 6-6 Book, who rebounded from a sluggish first 20 minutes to score all 16 of his points in the second half and overtime.
Townser also got into the act in the second half. The former Alton standout made the score 65-62 with 18.4 seconds left before Newton's shot forced overtime.
Newton led all scorers with 19 points.