In the midst of a rare three-game losing streak and coming off the worst home defeat in more than a decade, veteran Southwestern Illinois College basketball coach Jay Harrington knew something had to be done.
On Sunday, Harrington indeed do something. Harrington cleared the air with members of his Blue Storm squad.
"We had one-on-one meetings with the players and told them we were not happy with the way they had been playing and that they were going to do what we wanted or they could leave," Harrington said. "There was a lot finger pointing going on and that it would end now. I think a lot of it has to do with that the players were hearing the coaching staff tell them one thing and then hearing various outside influences telling them other things.''
Evidently, the talk sessions worked.
On Monday, the Blue Storm players listened to the coaches in their game against always tough Southeastern Illinois College.
Freshman Romondo Ray scored 21 points and sophomore Brandon Book added 16 as SWIC rolled past Southeastern Illinois College 90-59 in a Great Rivers Athletic Conference game.
Coming off an 83-55 loss to national power Vincennes University on Saturday, SWIC (10-6) got off to a quick start against the Falcons.
"We made some changes in the lineup and I thought we came out and played very well,'' Harrington. "The test will come in these next few games on the road starting with Kaskaskia on Wednesday. Then we've got Olney (Central) on Saturday and Lakeland on Monday. If we can win two of three, I'll be happy.''
The Blue Storm returns home on Jan. 29 to take on Wabash Valley College.
Newcomer Erika McCaster, a Belleville West graduate, scored 15 points and sophomore Breana Baker added 14 as SWIC rolled to a 65-29 win over Southeastern Illinois College on Monday.
SWIC (10-1), which stretched its winning streak to seven, held Southeastern to just nine points in the first half.
"Coming off an emotional win over a nationally-ranked Vincennes team and playing a Southeastern Illinois team which has struggled, I was concerned about a letdown. But we played well,'' Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger said. "I'm a little concerned in the fact that we continue to start a little slow in games and that we aren't shooting the ball well from beyond the 3-point line. I think we're like four of our last 42.
"It seems a little strange to me that in practice we shoot great from over the 3-point line and right now we're not making any during games. That needs to improve.''
What needs to remain constant is the Blue Storm's team chemistry. Even with the addition of McCaster, a former two-time all-state selection at Belleville West, the Blue Storm keeps rumbling along.
"She (McCaster) had practiced wiith us during the first semester and so the other girls knew what kind of player she was,'' Juenger said. "I've had a lot of great girls and great teams here, but group is special in how well it gets along on and off the basketball court.
"These girls are all about winning and getting back to the national tournament for the third year in a row."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org