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Orcutt scores 21 in win over Villa Grove-Heritage

Midway into the third quarter of their home game against Villa Grove-Heritage on Tuesday, St. Joseph-Ogden's Keanen Swanson made a shot from the paint to help St. Joseph-Ogden build their largest lead of the non-conference contest.

When the dust settled after a mad flourish of turnovers and desperate scoring attempts by both teams in the final quarter of the game, the Spartans escaped with a 58-52 win over the Hawks.

Keanen Swanson dribbles the ball in the second half during in their home game on Tuesday
While Villa Grove-Heritage's Blake Smith plays defense, St. Joseph-Ogden's Keanen Swanson dribbles the ball in the second half during in their home game on Tuesday. Swanson finished the game with 5 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. See more photos from the game here: Spartans vs Hawks varsity basketball gallery. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The 10-point surplus mentioned above was subsequently erased when Hawks' Jake Eversole hit a field goal tying the score at 37-all with 45 seconds left on the clock in the third quarter.

One second, maybe two, before the buzzer sounded ending it, Joel Orcutt launched a ten-footer to give SJO a two-point lead.

And, Orcutt wasn't done.

He would go on to score four more times in the final quarter on his way to a game-high 21 points. Without fellow senior Jack Cook,the team's leading scorer, on the floor it was up to Orcutt to make buckets.

Cook was unable to play due to an unexpected illness that kept him out of school.

"I found more opportunities to score the ball. We had to get the points. We had to get balls in the hoop," said Orcutt, who also led both teams with 8 rebounds and took up the slack for the missing Cook. "I've got height. It was just easier to get the ball inside to me and score it from five feet instead of (shooting) three-pointers."

Villa Grove-Heritage would tie it up two more times in the last quarter. However, St. Joseph-Ogden never allowed the opportunity to relinquish the lead thanks to a strong defensive effort.

"We struggled tonight. Things got a little frantic out there," said Chance Izard, the Spartans' second leading scorer for the night. "We struggled to keep our composure, but we got the job done."

Izard was 4-for-5 from three point range and finished the night with 16 points. He did not miss either of the two free throws attempts he earned.

"I thought this game was important to bounce back from Saturday's loss to Pleasant Plains on our home court," Izard said. "Our biggest emphasis on this game was to bounce back and play with positive energy."

The Hawks were led with 15-point performances by Will Wilson and Jared Stevens. Evan Wilson, who was 6-for-6 from the free throw line, scored 10 points.

SJO (10-7) was to play Teutopolis at home on Friday evening and follow with a road game at Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Saturday. Both games were canceled due to the weather.

Both the JV and varsity squads are scheduled to play their next Illini Prairie Conference contest this week starting with St. Thomas More on Tuesday, January 15. After a few days of rest and practice, SJO will host the Olympia Spartans on Friday at the high school.

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