BELLEVILLE — It took longer than Cahokia coach Darian Nash would have liked, but senior Keenan Minor finally found his shooting touch Friday at Althoff High School. Outplayed and held scoreless by Althoff's Ryan Marcum in the first half, Minor broke loose for 21 points in the final two quarters as Cahokia fought off a strong Crusaders' effort for a 61-44 win in a South Seven Conference game.
In its first action since winning the Centralia Holiday Tournament, Cahokia struggled through a tough first half during which Minor missed all five of his shots and spent the entire second quarter on the bench with two fouls.
Althoff, getting a combined 17 points from Kevin Renner and Marcum, led 28-27 at halftime.
But the second half was a different story.
Connecting on his first basket of the night with 5:27 left in the third quarter, Minor keyed an 11-0 Comanches scoring run as Cahokia (12-2, 3-1 South Seven) went from two points down to a 40-33 lead after three quarters.
"We were sloppy in the first half and we didn't do a very good job of getting good shots,'' Nash said. "This is a rivalry game with a lot of emotion. We just had to settle down, and we did that in the second half.''
Althoff, which missed six shots within five feet of the basket in the third quarter alone, would get no closer than seven points in the fourth quarter, as Minor tallied 12 of the Comanches' final 21 points.
The 6-foot, 2-inch Minor outscored the Crusaders 21-17 in the second half.
"It was a tale of two halves. We just missed some shots in the third quarter,'' Althoff coach Greg Leib said. "They (Cahokia) do a good job of staying back and not committing the foul.
"(Cahokia's) Vincent Jackson has a career in acting if he wants one, because he's so deceptive and you never know what he's going to do. He slides over and as a team they do a good job of closing down the lanes.''
With Minor struggling to find his touch, the Comanches got three 3-pointers from senior Derenzo Jennings and eight points from Darius Austin to take a 21-13 lead after one quarter.
But it was all Althoff in the second quarter.
With Renner scoring eight of his 13 points, the Crusaders (8-5, 3-1) chipped away throughout the period and when senior Grant Strieker sank a 3 with under a minute left, Althoff led 28-27.
"I thought Ryan Marcum did a great job on Minor in the first half. He takes great pride in playing good defense,'' Leib said. "But then he got in a little foul trouble and Minor warmed up.
"They beat us on the offensive boards as well and we've got from now until February to work on that. Cahokia does a great job of boxing out, and when you've got a lot of good players, that's how you score.''
Jackson chipped in with 14 points for Cahokia while Jennings added 12. Austin had eight.
"We didn't have a very good second quarter, but I was pleased with our play in the second half, especially on the defensive end,'' Nash said. "Derenzo (Jennings) gave us a nice lift in the first quarter but he's capable of doing that.''
Renner paced Althoff with 13 points while Marcum added 10.
"If we get those shots to fall in the third quarter, who knows? We were still only down seven going into the fourth quarter,'' Leib said. "I was proud of our effort. We played hard enough to be successful. We've just got a few little things we've got to get better at.''