‘Weekend full of toughness’: Trail Blazers begin to forge identity with pair of victories


John Wood Community College men's basketball coach Brad Hoyt watched the Trail Blazers improve to 3-0 with a pair of victories in the John Wood Classic at the Student Activity Center. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Brad Hoyt used two words to describe the John Wood Community College men’s basketball team’s defensive effort last weekend he hopes will be the same two words he uses to characterize the Trail Blazers all season.

Toughness and physicality.

JWCC won a pair of games in the John Wood Classic last weekend at the Student Activity Center where it clamped down in the closing moments, which included holding the No. 8 team in the NJCAA Division II preseason top 20 to three points the final six minutes.

The Trail Blazers forced Southwestern Community College to turn the ball over and miss a shot in the paint on its final two possessions, leading to a 63-62 victory in Friday’s game. On Saturday, JWCC outscored nationally ranked Kirkwood 11-3 down the stretch to secure a 64-57 victory to move to 3-0.

Kirkwood went 1 of 11 from the field and 1 of 3 from the free-throw line with two turnovers over the final six minutes.

“The most important thing is we got some stops,” said Hoyt, now in his 14th season as JWCC’s head coach. “We locked in and guarded defensively when we had to, and I’m hoping that will be our identity as we go through the year.”

Southwestern committed 20 turnovers and made just seven 3-pointers, while   Kirkwood shot 35.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range.

“That’s the part, progress-wise, I walked away pleased with,” Hoyt said. 

He believes the Trail Blazers will buy in to being known for locking down defensively.

“If it can be a building block, we have a chance to really grow on that side of the ball,” Hoyt said. “That’s a toughness and an effort thing.”

So is finding ways to win. The Trail Blazers did that twice.

Against Southwestern, JWCC freshman forward Jake Wallingford grabbed an offensive rebound of a miss by guarde Cachaoi Gianquinto Jr. and was fouled with 23 seconds remaining in regulation. He made both free throws to give the Trail Blazers the lead for good.

Against Kirkwood, sophomore guard Joshua Talton scored five of JWCC’s final 11 points, while Wallingford and freshman point guard Jordan Shelton each had three.

Wallingford finished with 10 points and five rebounds against Southwestern and 10 points and seven rebounds against Kirkwood. Shelton had 18 points against Southwestern, while against Kirkwood, Talton had 18 points and sophomore forward Logan Robbins had eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

“We have some guys who are capable individually of making some big plays and making some big shots,” Hoyt said. “We need to improve collectively in those situations. I would prefer we don’t rely on individual plays late in the game all the time. It ages me.”

Still, it’s a starting point for how to adjust.

“There’s a lot of film from this weekend that we’ve already used and will continue to look at moving forward,” Hoyt said.

Improvement will come from that.

“We have a lot of work to do when it comes to execution and decision making,” Hoyt said. “That’s what we’re going to spend this week working on, but beating Kirkwood is a good early season win against a really good team.”

Better yet, Hoyt saw a team finding its identity.

“It was a weekend full of toughness,” he said.

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