After enduring an 9-day layoff prior to entering Monday night's Region 24 Tournament quarterfinals, John A. Logan head coach Kyle Smithpeters had reason for optimism.
However, the Harrisburg native also acknowledged when his team tries to play cool, the Vols can lose their cool.
Against Lakeland Monday, the Volunteers were as cool as the other side of the pillow, scoring 60 points in putting away the Lakers 104-76 and advancing to Wednesday's semifinals.
JALC (16-4) held a 10-point 44-34 lead at halftime and Smithpeters said he wasn't displeased.
"The chemistry, the continuity, all that stuff we were worried about. I told that our biggest thing is when we try to cool, we kind of lose our cool. When we are gritty, we are really good. We have to stay gritty. We got like eleven stops in a row I think in the second half when we kept track of them. That's when we get our stuff done. Our guys lose sight of that and it's easy to do it because we haven't played in a long time."
The Vols put four players in double figures as Sydney Curry had a team-high 20 points, while Cam Alford netted 19 in the victory. Romon Douglas-Watkins finished with 14 and Jamarion Sharp tacked on 12.
Two other starters, Pinckneyville's Dawson Yates and Dre Boyd each added eight points and joined Marion's Jackson Connor and Xavier Ball in scoring eight. Isaiah Ervin finished with five points and Teon Nesbitt had a second half free throw.
Smithpeters' squad beat Lake Land 83-69 back on March 3 and the head coach noted how big the second half was in putting some distance between them and the opposition.
"You see guys like Jackson step up, you see guys like Doug come back in and Xavier who didn't score much in the first half. We got some really good players that know how to play. I'm just glad we are starting to see things click. That's game number about 20 for us now despite the eleven month season. Right now we should be hitting our stride. That second half was a very good indication of what this group is going to be."
Up Next: John A. Logan will play Wabash Valley, who beat Southwestern Illinois College Monday night as well. The Vols split during the regular season with the Warriors, winning 92-64 in Carterville on February 11 and then losing 79-77 in Mt. Carmel on March 20. Game time is slated for 6 p.m.
Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.