Comfort creates confidence for JWCC women during second-half surge in Region 24 victory

Katey Flynn

John Wood Community College's Katey Flynn, right, throws a pass while being pressured by Illinois Central College's Addi Swadinksy during Wednesday night's Region 24 quarterfinal matchup at the Student Activity Center. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — If the John Wood Community College women’s basketball players could attack the basket at the east end of the Student Activity Center all the time, they truly believe they’d never trail.

“This side is our basket,” sophomore point guard Jada Dupree said. “We practice on it every single day. When we go that way in the second half, we tell ourselves, ‘Hey, it’s our basket now. So let’s go.’”

Wednesday night, that worked once again.

Trailing fifth-seeded Illinois Central College by four points at halftime in the Region 24 tournament quarterfinals, the fourth-seeded Trail Blazers put away an 80-63 victory with a blistering shooting performance down the stretch.

JWCC went 11 of 18 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter and shot 53.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range overall in the second half.

“We’re resilient,” JWCC coach Lauren Bogle said of her team’s continual second-half rise. “We talk about what needs to happen and make adjustments. We stay composed. At halftime, we continue to go over the normal game plan and pick apart what we weren’t well. We calm down, settle and realize at any moment we’re the best team on the floor.”

Truly, a halftime deficit doesn’t bother the Trail Blazers.

“That’s who we are,” Bogle said. “So what, right? We still have another half to prove it.”

It didn’t happen immediately.

The Cougars led 40-34 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter before Trail Blazers kicked the offense in gear. Freshman guard Katey Flynn drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key while being fouled and made the subsequent free throw for a 43-42 lead with 1:47 to go in the quarter, and Grace Deters hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and JWCC never trailed again.

“We are a second-half team for sure,” said Flynn, who scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. “At halftime, we all just regroup and come out stronger. We know to stick together and trust each other.”

A boost from the bench helps, too.

A minute into the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers led 48-47 before Blair Eftink, the Quincy Notre Dame product who was a late-season addition to the roster, made the first of three 3-pointers from the left corner. Her back-to-back treys with 3:40 to go turned a 10-point advantage into a rout and cemented JWCC’s spot in the region semifinals.

The energy in the Student Activity Center crescendoed at that moment, too.

“We fed off each other and we fed off the crowd,” Flynn said after Dupree scored a game-high 21 points and Deters added 11. “It was a team effort in the second half and it got loud in here. Everyone felt it.”

The Trail Blazers (17-12) will try to harness some of that energy when they face top-seeded Parkland (25-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill. The Cobras advanced with an 89-47 victory over eighth-seeded Spoon River.

“We’re ready to go,” Bogle said. “One at a time. That’s all we can do. We’ll go give it our all.”

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