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  • John A. Logan College knocked off Vincennes 77-68 in Friday night's Region 24 Championship Game.

    John A. Logan College knocked off Vincennes 77-68 in Friday night's Region 24 Championship Game.

By Spyder Dann
updated: 4/15/2021 8:37 AM

As customary when a coach wins a big game, the team will usually take the water cooler and empty its content onto said head coach.
That happened to Kyle Smithpeters in the Volunteers' locker room Saturday night as John A. Logan College punched their ticket to Hutchinson, Kanas after knocking off Vincennes 77-68 in the championship game of the Region 24 Tournament.
However, the cool liquid that Smithpeters was washed in, paled in comparison to the swishing and splashing that Xavier Ball did.
The Vols' 6-foot-7 sophomore had himself a night, scoring a game-high 28 points, 17 of which came in the first half as the combo guard drilled five 3-pointers, taking home tournament MVP honors.
Ball was joined in double figures with Sydney Curry, as the Kansas commit tacked on 13 points, earning Co-Region Player Of The Year honors.
Smithpeters' squad is going to their second straight NCJAA National Championship as last year's was cancelled during to COVID-19 and it's the third Region 24 title for the Vols, last winning in the 2014-15 season.
It's also the fourth meeting between JALC (18-4) and Vincennes, which could also be dubbed as the student vs. the teacher.
The Trailblazers are led by former Southeastern Illinois head coach Todd Franklin, who took over the reins in 2010. Smithpeters, played for Franklin at SIC from 2001 to 2003. In his nine years at Logan, Smithpeters has now beaten his mentor three times in the title game.
"Vincennes is a good team and are very well coached. It's a great program and you would expect nothing less from them. We knew they weren't going to quit and that's what we talked about at halftime."
It was the Vols who held the halftime advantage and did so in large part thanks to Ball.
Vincennes was able to cut the deficit to five at 23-18 late in the first half, but Ball went to work, scoring eight straight to make it a 31-23 lead with 4:!1 to play. A followup 3 by Isiah Ervin with 3:39 to play capped off an 11-4 run by JALC and for good measure, Ball shook off a defender as the first half clock expired, knocking down a fade away three to give John A. A 39-26 lead.
"That was a big shot that X hit before the half. It was huge," Smithpeters said. We played a lot of good teams this year and there are not many that will beat Vincennes. They don't make many mistakes, they play very tough defensively. They're going to push the ball on offense and get the ball in the right spot, they're just tough."
Things got dicey for JALC in the second half as a comfortable lead was sliced to six, but once again, X marked the spot and it was a Ball for all.
The sophomore made one of two free throw with 2:41 to play, giving JALC a 69-62 lead and pushed the lead back to nine at 1:56 with another bucket.
"You have such a small margin of error against a team like that in order to pull out a win," Smithpeters said. "You have to give out guys a lot of credit, they made some big plays and our guys were solid and confident.
"It got down to six with about three to go, it was a little scary and our guys had some ice water in their veins.We have some extraordinary players and I was happy for some of these fans to finally get a chance to see our guys play."
The Trailblazers shot 32.8% from the floor and were 7-of-22 from 3-point range for 31.8%. Vincennes (17-6)
Jamarion Sharp netted nine for the Vols, while Romon Douglas-Watkins and Dre Boyd each scored seven points. Pinckneyville's Dawson Yates hit a pair of corner pocket 3's and had six points, while Cam Alford finished with four and Ervin tacked on three points.
Vincennes will join a growing group of schools fighting for eight at-large bigs for the NCJAA Division I National Tournament. If VU receives and at-Large bid, it will be the ninth year in a row the Blazers have made the NJCAA National Tournament, which will set a new NJCAA record.
A bid would also send VU to the NJCAA tournament for the 36th time in program history, which would break the school's own record for most tournament appearances by a school.
The Selection Show will be livestreamed on the NJCAA Network, Sunday at 6 p.m.

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.

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