Shelton sparks offensive outburst as JWCC men earn spot in Region 24 semifinals


John Wood Community College guard Jordan Shelton, center, reacts to getting fouled while making a shot during the second half of Wednesday night's Region 24 quarterfinal victory over Rend Lake at the Student Activity Center. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The Rend Lake College men’s basketball wanted nothing more than a trip home.

So John Wood Community College sent the Warriors home for good.

Instead of returning to Ina, Ill., where the Rend Lake campus is located, for the final two rounds of the Region 24 postseason tournament, the Warriors must watch the Trail Blazers contend for a title after Jordan Shelton led a second-half surge that resulted in a 75-61 victory in Wednesday night’s region quarterfinals at the Student Activity Center.

“We knew it was a chip on their shoulder to be able to go home at play,” said Shelton, the JWCC freshman point guard from Mexico, Mo. “We knew we had to shut that down. We had to get after it. We wanted to make that trip.”

Shelton showed the Trail Blazers the way.

With 10:11 seconds remaining in regulation and JWCC trailing 50-44, Shelton returned to the floor after spending more than six minutes on the bench. He turned a steal into a layup seconds after re-entering, made two free throws with 5:23 to go to give the Trail Blazers the lead for good and followed that with a steal and a breakaway dunk that punctuated the game-changing run.

He had 12 points in the 18-9 spurt and scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the second half. Shelton also had nine rebounds, three steals and two assists.

“He just created some separation for us,” Hoyt said. “When we score, we’re pretty good defensively, and I thought we were pretty dang good defensively much of the night. We just had to find a way to score, and he kind of gave us the spark.”

JWCC sophomore guard Joshua Talton felt it.

“He’s a special talent,” Talton said of Shelton. “He’s one of the most athletic dudes I’ve played with for sure, and I’m just so glad he’s on our team.”

Shelton will need to continue to be a spark if a trip to the NJCAA Division II national tournament is in the offing. Third-seeded JWCC (18-12) will face second-seeded Illinois Central College at 3 p.m. Saturday at Rend Lake. The teams split their regular-season series with the Trail Blazers scoring a 15-point victory at home last Saturday.

That loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Cougars, who beat Spoon River on Wednesday night to improve to 19-11. The Trail Blazers have won five games in a row.

Top-seeded Parkland (26-4) faces fourth-seeded Danville (18-11) in the other semifinal.

“Honestly, we just have to do us,” Talton said of preparing to face ICC again. “Do what the coaches have put us in a spot to do and trust what we do. I know that sounds cliche, but that’s what we have to do.”

JWCC led Rend Lake 37-33 at halftime despite shooting 37.5 percent from the field in the first half and making just 3 of 15 3-pointers. Over the first 10 minutes of the second half, freshman guard Nolan Deitrich made back-to-back baskets while the rest of the Trail Blazers scored on just one other possession.

They went 3 of 13 from the field with three turnovers in that stretch.

They only had four empty possessions the remainder of the game.

“We finally started to put two or three good possessions together,” Hoyt said. “We struggled making shots. I thought we got good shots, but the ball wouldn’t go in the basket for us. I don’t know if we were pressing or whatever.”

Talton felt the solution to the offensive woes was rather simple.

“It was just trusting each other,” said the Monroe City, Mo., product, who scored

15 points to go with six rebounds and three assists. “Coach said we needed to trust each other. Going down the stretch, I really didn’t get worried. I know we’re capable of making runs and playing good defense. I trusted my coach and I trusted my teammates.”

Shelton’s ability to create off the dribble played a significant part, too.

“We knew if we kept attacking it was going to open up everything else,” Shelton said. “I can get to the bucket, but I also know I have shooters all around. That’s such a great thing. I know I can trust them a lot.”

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