BELLEVILLE — After shaking off the cobwebs, the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm shook off an early challenge from Lincoln Trail College on Saturday in a Great Rivers Athletic Conference game.
LaTeesha Deloach and high-scoring freshman Laura Litchfield rebounded from a cold-shooting first half as the Blue Storm pulled away for a 62-42 victory.
Playing for the first time since Dec. 6, a span of 36 days, the Blue Storm struggled early before finding its shooting touch in the latter stages of the opening half and early in the second half as it rolled to its seventh win in eight games.
"It had been so long since we played a game that I almost told the girls what court we were going to be on," said Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger, whose team is 3-1 in the GRAC. "To go 36 days between games is a long time. I knew it would take us some time.
"We were supposed to play at Lakeland (College) on Wednesday, but it was postponed by the road conditions. That's fine though. From here on out we'll be playing a lot.''
Lincoln Trail played well early before SWIC took control with an 11-3 scoring run. A pair of short-range jumpers by sophomore Breana Baker increased a three-point Blue Storm lead to 20-13.
Deloach, struggling through an ice-cold first 20 minutes, then tallied off a turnover and when reserve forward Erin Sullivan nailed a 3-pointer, SWIC led 25-13.
Following a 3 from Lincoln Trail's Autumn Brown, Litchfield scored inside to make it 27-16. The Stateswomen would get no closer than six the rest of the game.
Despite leading 29-21 at halftime, Juenger saw things his team could have done better.
"I was a little disappointed that a couple of players who had practiced so well during the break were a little timid offensively," Juenger said. "We weren't sharp in the first half, but you've got stay aggressive."
Juenger had to be happy to see freshman guard Asia Nichols on the court at all.
Making her college debut and seeing her first playing time in over two years because of a series of knee injuries, Nichols hit her third shot attempt -- a 3-pointer -- late in the first half as the Blue Storm bench erupted.
"That was great to see,'' Juenger said of Nichols. "She's a little unsure yet but after going through what she has, that's understandable.
"One of the things I like most about this team is that they're close. They're all friends and they're pulling for each other and giving high-fives to each other when they come out. We've still got some work to do, but today it was good to get out and play and win a game. It had been so long we needed to play.
Deloach and Litchfield led SWIC with 11 points each, while sophomore Taylor Poindexter added nine points and Mone'y Black chipped in with eight.