SWIC men, women set to open Great Rivers Conference play

After waltzing through to the title in its own Southwestern Illinois College Classic last weekend, the schedule is about to get more difficult for coach Jay Harrington’s Blue Storm in the next 10 days. In fact, it will get much tougher.

SWIC (4-1) opens play in the rugged Great Rivers Conference on Wednesday when it travels to take on undefeated Wabash Valley College (6-0) before returning home on Saturday to battle preseason GRAC favorite John A. Logan College, currently undefeated at 7-0.

“We didn’t get very good draws in terms of the start of the conference season this year. Playing at Wabash Valley is always a real challenge and then turning around and having to play (John A.) Logan three days later, that’s rough,” SWIC coach Jay Harrington said. “They we wind up the pre-Thankgiving part of our schedule on Tuesday against Shawnee and I hear they are very much improved as well.

“Our conference will once again be very strong. You never like to lose, but if we would drop a game or two early, I think we’re still in the thick of the race. I really think four and maybe five losses could win our conference this season.”

The Blue Storm improved to 4-1 this past weekend with a 115-53 win over the Lindenwood University-Belleville junior varsity team on Friday then clobbered the Missouri Baptist University JV 94-63 on Saturday. Those wins came in the first SWIC Classic.

The wins may have been costly for SWIC as sophomore center LaRoyce Eason suffered a knee injury and prized freshman guard Darius Edwards suffered a high ankle sprain.

“We don’t know how badly LaRoyce’s knee is injured or how long he will be out and we don’t know if we’ll have Darius or not at Wabash Valley on Wednesday,” Harrington said. “We always schedule a few JV teams every year in order to get some playing time for our reserves because you never know if or when they will be neded to play a few minutes later in the season.

“It was good because kids who didn’t get to play at all the other night at Mineral Area (College) got at least 10 to 15 minutes of playing time this weekend.”

Harrington is also hopeful that injured players Justin Diecker and Kyle Lemons will be able to get their first playing time of the season at Wabash Valley.

“We know we can’t go crazy with them. We have to be very careful in how much they play,” Harrington said of his two sophomore standouts. “But if we are able to get them in for a couple of minutes each half and maybe give Quan (Poindexter) and Chris (Galbreath) a breather it would be a huge boost for us.

“Quan played 35 minutes at Mineral Area and Chris would have been in that neighborhood as well if we wouldn’t have fouled out.”

Blue Storm women

Like the men’s squad, the Blue Storm women’s team had little trouble as it breezed to the title at the first SWIC Classic this weekend.

Continuing to get inspired play from freshman Aubreeney Brady, a Collinsville High graduate, the Blue Storm fought off a two-week layoff and scored a pair of impressive victories.

“I was pleased. We were sloppy, especially in our first game on Friday. But after not playing for two weeks, I kind of expected we might be a little rusty. We were,” SWIC coach Mike Juenger said. “Heading into the conference opener on Wednesday, we needed to play and get a little confidence going into Wabash Valley. The one thing we need to really work on though is rebounding. We must do a better job of blocking out on long rebounding. We didn’t shoot the ball very well this weekend either. But I’m hoping that the more we play, the better our perimeter shooting will be.”

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean