Easy does it: JWCC shares basketball efficiently during critical stretch to earn win in MWAC opener

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John Wood Community College forward Logan Robbins finishes a dunk over Spoon River College's Marquise Rue during the second half of Wednesday night's game at the Student Activity Center. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — While his players on the floor rotated back to play defense after Logan Robbins flushed a two-handed dunk off a nifty baseline bounce pass, John Wood Community College men’s basketball coach Brad Hoyt implored his bench with a familiar refrain.

“See, make it easy,” Hoyt said.

For a stretch of the second half Wednesday night, the Trail Blazers made it look easy.

JWCC turned a three-point lead into a 17-point bulge with unselfish play offensively, assisting on nine of the 10 field goals in that stretch while opening Mid-West Athletic Conference play with a 79-69 victory over Spoon River College at the Student Activity Center.

“That comes from running our stuff,” JWCC freshman forward Logan Robbins said. “Coach always says don’t grind it. At first, I didn’t know what he meant. But the offense we run allows you to work in 1-on-1 situations but also find everybody else. If you get everyone else touches first and not your own, you’re selfless. You’ll get your touches and then you’ll make plays.

“This offense works really good because of that.”

During the tide-turning eight-minute stretch, the offense worked almost flawlessly.

Three of the first four made field goals came at the rim with Jeremiah Talton throwing down a dunk and converting a three-point play off a layin and Robbins finishing a layin. The signature moment of the spurt came when Robbins threw down dunks on back-to-back possessions, the first off a Joshua Talton assist and the second off a Jeremiah Talton assist.

That’s what got Hoyt so excited.

“I really do think we made it easy for a while there,” said Jeremiah Talton, who led the Trail Blazers with 24 points. “We went on a run where we were getting stops and playing together. We kept making the easy play, and we were capitalizing off that.”

So what actually constitutes making it easy?

“It’s spacing, it’s pace and it’s sharing,” Hoyt said. “What we do offensively, there’s spacing attached to that. So the spacing has to be right. You have to run it with pace so you get the defense having to guard in transition. And then you have to be able to share the heck out of it.

“It’s those three things. For us, that’s making it easier. It’s not easy. It’s about making the process easier and let what we do work to see if we can make it easier.”

By doing so, the Trail Blazers (11-8, 1-0 MWAC) racked up 22 assists on 28 made field goals, which translated to 43.8 percent shooting from the field overall. In the second half, JWCC had 13 assists on 14 field goals and shot 50 percent inside the 3-point stripe.

The effort wasn’t perfect. The Trail Blazers went 2 of 12 from 3-point range and committed 13 turnovers, some of that was due to the aggressive nature of the Snappers’ defense.

“It was fighting ourselves to get the ball from side to side,” Hoyt said. “Spoon River does a great job of getting pressure and changing defenses. But when we got it side to side, we were at our best. We had a stretch there where we did that, and we found things we like to find that led to easy baskets. You have to have those moments.”

Having that moment lead to winning the conference opener was crucial.

“People don’t realize how big these games are,” said Robbins, the Liberty product who had 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists. “To be honest, when I came watch John Wood playing a couple times last year, I didn’t realize how big the Spoon River, the Illinois Central games were to win.

“Then Coach Hoyt talks about postseason play and is like, ‘You have to do it.’ I think we all understand just how important the conference games are now. They’re vital.”

Going on the road for three straight league games, beginning Saturday at Parkland College, made beating Spoon River (12-7, 1-1 MWAC) even more important.

“It builds momentum for us,” Talton said. “We realize what we’re playing for. We know everyone is going to come to beat us, so we have to bring our best every night.”

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