BELLEVILLE — One of eight players honored on sophomore day at Southwestern Illinois College on Saturday, JaQuail Townser gave a large turnout of fans one final game to remember.
Townser scored a season-high 31 points -- including 20 in the second half -- as the Blue Storm rallied for an 80-72 win over Olney Central College in a Great Rivers Athletic Conference game.
One of several SWIC players plaugued by nagging injuries for most of the season Townser, along with sophomore Brandon Book, helped bring the Blue Storm back from a 31-28 halftime deficit and then continued to make big plays down the stretch to help the Blue Storm hold off Olney Central.
"I would think he'd be up for the Region Player of the Year,'' Blue Storm coach Jay Harrington said of Townser. "JaQuail has been hurt a lot this year but since he's been back, we've played much better as a team. He just played extremely well for us today.''
Book, who ignited the crowd and his team with a pair of 3-point baskets early in the second half, added 14 points while Falando Wilkinson chipped in with 12 points.
Sophomore Michael Schmidt and freshman Hunter Reine also contributed late in the game as SWIC, which entered play this weekend needing wins over Shawnee College and Olney Central, to secure no worse than a top 5 seed in the Region 24 Tourament which begins on Wednesday at Rend Lake College in Ina. The Blue Storm (18-12) will take on either Shawnee or Kaskaskia College at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Led by sharpshooter Brook Pampa (22 points) and sophomore John Brown (15), Olney Centrral trailed just 58-55 with under six minutes remaining.
But Schmidt made a 3-point basket and following an exchange of possessions, Townser buried his fifth 3-point shot of the night to extend the lead to nine points.
Olney Central would get no closer then five points the rest of the day.
"It's been a tough year but its also been a great year,'' Harrington said. "With all the injuries we've had, to be able to win 18 games is quite an accomplishment."
SWIC 77, Olney Central 56
Playing for the final time on Jay Harrington Court, sophomore LaTeesa Deloach connected on six 3-point shots and scored 25 points as the Blue Storm women clinched a fifth-straight 20 win season with the lopsided GRAC win.
A former all-state guard at Incarnate Word High School in St. Louis, the 5-foot-3 Deloach teammed with Erika McCaster to help give SWIC (20-5) a 37-25 lead at halftime.
Then, with Olney (17-12) cutting the Blue Storm lead to six points early in the second half, Deloach nailed back-to-back 3-point attemps to key a 12-2 surge as SWIC put the game away.
McCaster, who also scored 25 points, added a short jumper and a layup off a steal while sophomore Mone'y Black added an offensive putback for a basket as SWIc took an 18-point lead.
"T (Deloach) had a day didn't she? I just shed a few tears in the locker room because of what she and the eight sophomores have done for our basketball program,'' Juenger said. "They've done things the right way through hard work and they've dealt with me on days I've been crabby.
"I still think we're the best team in the region. We just need to put three good games together next week and we've got a great chance of going back to the national tournament.
SWIC, the No. 3 seed in the Region 24 Tournament which begins on Tuesday at Rend Lake College in Ina, will take on Rend Lake at 7 p.m. The semifinals are set for Thursday with the title game scheduled for Friday.
McCaster came off the bench to score 13 points in a two-minute span midway in the first half to ignite the Blue Storm which posted its 20th win of the season.
Olney Central (17-12) led by as many as five points and held a 17-13 advantage when McCaster, a former Belleville West standout, entered the game
After connecting on her first two 3-point attempts, McCaster scored on back-to-back conventional 3-point plays as the Blue Storm grabbed a 10-point lead.
Sophomore LaTeesa Deloach added three 3-point baskets for SWIC in the first half.
The Blue Storm led 37-25 at halftime.