Trail Blazers survive Cougars’ pressure and chaotic pace to capture MWAC victory in OT

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QUINCY — Brad Hoyt should have felt comfortable watching his team control the tempo and continuing to knock down shots to open a 19-point lead at home five minutes into the second half.

He wasn’t.

“It made me nervous,” the John Wood Community College men’s basketball coach admitted.

His apprehension proved to be well founded.

Illinois Central College used its size and quickness to speed up the game, forcing turnovers and hurried shots, and rode the hot shooting of Kyle Belgrave and Lavell McIntosh to whittle the deficit and then score 11 of the final 12 points in regulation to tie the score at 75.

The Trail Blazers regrouped, however, to score the first seven points in overtime and hold on during a frantic final 43 seconds for a 94-89 Mid-West Athletic Conference victory Saturday afternoon at the Student Activity Center that snapped a three-game losing streak.

“Coach said we had been the better team for 30 of the first 40 minutes, so let that define us in overtime,” JWCC guard Darrius Bolden said.

It did, although not without tense moments.

Bolden’s driving layup and subsequent three-point play after being fouled on a lay-in on a give-and-go pass from Braylon Diggs gave JWCC an 80-75 lead in the extra period. Nolton Klingele then cut down the left side of the lane and turned a pass from Jeremiah Talton into a layup to make it 82-75.

The Trail Blazers would not score from the field again, settling for 12 free throws on 14 attempts.

Perhaps the biggest play came after a timeout with 43.6 seconds remaining and JWCC clinging to an 88-85 lead.

Jeremiah Talton, who hit six 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 29 points, missed a long-range jumper from the right wing. Joshua Talton came down with the rebound, only to have his putback attempt blocked. Jeremiah Talton saved the loose ball along the baseline and fed it back to Joshua Talton, who was fouled. He hit two free throws with 27.5 seconds left to push the lead to 90-85.

A driving layup by Courtland Soll made it 90-87. After Bolden hit the second of two free throws, ICC’s Keaundre Cooper rimmed a 3-point try. Bolden again hit one of two free throws with 9.8 seconds to go to push the advantage of 92-87.

Belgrave, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who scored 24 of his team-high 26 points in the second half and overtime, put back a missed 3-point try by Soll with 3.8 seconds to go. JWCC was able to inbound the ball, and two free throws by Jenson Whiteman sealed it.

“(ICC) is really good at picking up the pace, it’s what they do,” Hoyt said. “It’s an advantage for them when the game gets chaotic. Fortunately, we made enough plays at the end. Being up double figures in the second half and getting beat can ruin you.”

The Trail Blazers (12-11, 2-3 MWAC) needed just seven minutes to open a 10-point lead. They shot 58 percent from the field in the first half, moving the ball crisply for high-percentage shots inside, and forced the Cougars into 10 turnovers, resulting in 13 points.

Jeremiah Talton scored 17 first-half points. His back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 1:21 put the finishing touches on a 10-4 run that gave JWCC a 41-25 halftime lead.

Twice the Trail Blazers extended that cushion to 19, the last at 56-37 on Jeremiah Talton’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 15 minutes remaining. They were comfortably in front 65-49 at the 10-minute mark.

That’s when the Cougars began to dial up the pressure, eventually trimming the deficit to 70-64 behind the shooting of Belgrave and McIntosh. Still, back-to-back short-range buckets from Klingele, who hit 7 of eight shots to finish with 14 points off the bench, pushed the advantage to 74-64 with under four minutes left.

“We’re still learning how to win,” said Bolden, who finished with 15 points and 11 assists. 

Belgrave, who made 11 of 13 shots overall off the bench, scored on a backdoor layup, a drive along the left baseline and a jumper from the free-throw line with the help of two JWCC turnovers to pull ICC within 74-70 with 1:37 remaining.

Jeremiah Talton hit 1 of 2 free throws at the 1:11 mark to make it 75-70. Two free throws by McIntosh again made it a three-point game and JWCC was guilty of a shot clock violation on its next possession, turning over the ball with 27.7 seconds left.

Belgrave drove in from the left wing and was bumped by Jeremiah Talton with 10.3 seconds to go. The officials counted the bucket even though it appeared the foul came before the shot. Belgrave then hit the free throw to tie it.

Both teams then turned the ball over and Diggs’ last-second shot after a long outlet pass from Bolden was blocked to force overtime.

Diggs and Logan Robbins scored 10 points apiece for the Trail Blazers, who shot 51 percent from the field and made 19 of 23 free throws overall. However, they turned the ball over 19 times. They travel to St. Louis Community College Wednesday night before playing four of their final five regular-season games at home.

In addition to Belgrave, Soll scored 24 points and McIntosh had 17 of his 19 points in the second half and overtime for the Cougars, who lost their fifth straight game to fall to 7-13 overall and 0-4 in league play.

“I’m sure we’ll see some things we need to work on when we watch the film,” Hoyt said, “but this is the time of year when winning is the goal. This is a survive-and-advance league.”

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