PINCKNEYVILLE — Edwardsville managed just four second-half field goals Saturday, but they proved to be enough.
Junior Armon Fletcher sank two free throws with 9.1 seconds left, and the Tigers held on for a 51-49 victory over Cahokia in a battle of metro-east powers at the Pinckneyville Panther Showcase.
Edwardsville, coming off a 72-61 Southwestern Conference loss to Belleville East on Friday, improved to 18-2.
"Last night, that's a feeling we don't want to feel again," Edwardsville senior guard Shawn Roundtree said, referring to the loss to East. "So we definitely tried to make it a point to come out here and battle as hard as we can.
"It was a real good game. I feel the team bounced back great."
Senior Garret Covington led the Tigers with 14 points, while Fletcher had 13 and Roundtree added 12.
Cahokia, which trailed 26-12 early in the second quarter and 35-23 at halftime, was charged with three costly turnovers in the final 1 minute, 10 seconds, that helped the Tigers survive.
"That's a part of not focusing, not executing," said Comanches coach Darian Nash, whose team fell to 21-3. "If we execute and hit our free throws --we missed four or five free throws --we could have tied it or took the lead.
"You look at those situations, and that's just not championship-caliber basketball. We've got to learn how to win the close games."
Junior Darius Austin led Cahokia with 14 points, while senior Vincent Jackson had 10. Senior Keenan Minor had 12 rebounds.
Cahokia stormed back in the third quarter, using a 14-0 run to take its first lead at 37-36. Edwardsville opened the quarter with a free throw to move ahead 36-23, but the Tigers' only basket of the quarter came in the final second on Fletcher's layup.
The basket put Edwardsville on top 38-37 and snapped an 0-for-10 skid from the field.
No more than three points separated the teams in the fourth quarter until Fletcher's two free throws with 9.1 seconds to play put Edwardsville ahead by four.
"We probably got a lot of the same shots in the second half that we did in the first," Tigers coach Mike Waldo said. "We really executed well in the first half. We made the extra pass and made open 3s. In the second half, we didn't shoot it as good, but we did a good job defensively and got some good stops against a very good team."
Cahokia was 20-for-53 from the field (38 percent) and just 2-for-17 from beyond the 3-point line (12 percent). Minor was 0-for-6.
The Tigers were 20-for-40 from the field (50 percent) despite their 4-for-14 showing in the second half. Edwardsville was 6-for-16 on 3s, with Covington going 3-for-8.
Edwardsville, despite its hot-and-cold offensive execution, showed no visible signs of fatigue, even late in the game. Waldo explained that maintaining an even disposition can help in that department.
"I think we played pretty good," he said. "I really don't think this is the time of year to get too up or too down. I think this is the time of year to just keep trying to get better. You've got to figure that your biggest games are in February.
"I do think our guys battled real well against two good teams, so I think in that respect it was a good weekend for us."
Nash said the defeat was "a lost opportunity to prove that we can play with the larger schools."
"It's just execution," he said. "We had three or four turnovers and didn't get a shot off at the basket (in the last minute). That's the most disheartening thing. We'll correct those."
Metamora 48, Mater Dei 45
Mater Dei coach Brian Perkes had a sinking feeling when floor leader Adam Etter fouled out against Metamora.
Etter, a 6-foot senior point guard, was charged with his fifth foul with 1:26 to play in the game, and his absence was noticeable in the final sequence of the Knights' loss to the Redbirds.
Needing a 3-pointer to tie the game, Mater Dei appeared to lose track of time and settled for an off-balanced 3 at the buzzer by sophomore Zach Deiters that was well off the mark.
"I think the biggest problem was we had our floor leader sitting on the bench with five fouls," said Perkes, whose team fell to 13-10. "Without Adam Etter on the floor, sometimes we can look a little lost, and I think that's what happened."
Metamora (19-2) took its three-point lead when senior David Gualandri made two free throws with 20.2 seconds to play.
The Knights had no timeouts remaining and had difficulty getting room as they worked the ball around the perimeter. Suddenly, Deiters found himself above the key with less than two seconds to play, and his shot had no chance.
"You've got to have somebody who can step up and make a play when Adam's not on the floor," Perkes said. "Unfortunately, tonight we couldn't do that toward the end."
Etter paced Mater Dei with 14 points. Seniors Tianen Chen and Jackson Grieves led the Redbirds, members of the Mid-Illini Conference, with 17 points apiece.
"Breese Mater Dei is a very good team. They're well-drilled and they're well-coached. We knew that coming in," Metamora coach Danny Grieves said. "We just happened to make some real key shots during some runs that we had, because we were down.
"Tianen Chen did a nice job inside and Jackson Grieves hit a couple of shots outside that really helped us. And then David Gualandri hit two big free throws, but bigger then that was going down and defending the 3-point line. They didn't get a good look."
Mater Dei was unable to capitalize on two fourth-quarters technical fouls called against Metamora.
Junior Joe Kennell received the first one for pushing down Etter after play had been stopped near the Mater Dei basket. Danny Grieves received the other for arguing a play on which he believed Mater Dei should have been whistled for a foul.
"The refereeing was pretty inconsistent," Grieves said. "If they're going to let you play, let us play. But all of a sudden, it's a tick-tack foul. I had a referee tell me, 'This is not a group that works together. And we are at fault for not being able to be more consistent.'"
Neither team helped itself from the free-throw line. Metamora was 17-for-27, while Mater Dei was 17-for-28.
"Free throws have been a bug-a-boo for us all year long," Perkes said. "It's cost us a number of games. We were 17-for-28 tonight, and when you lose a close ballgame, you look back at it and you think, 'Man, if we had shot a little bit better, we could have won.' It's been a concern, a problem all year long for us."
Pinckneyville 41, Wesclin 40
Senior Dylan Hardin scored with 3.8 seconds to play to lift the Panthers to a come-from-behnd win.
The winning play was set up when Wesclin freshman Jaren Steenbergen missed a one-and-one. The Panthers called timeout and Hardin scored while being fouled by junior Michael Klein.
Hardin missed the free throw, but Klein's desperation shot at the buzzer caromed off the backboard.
Steenbergen led the Warriors (8-13) with 12 points off the bench. Junior Brady Kunz had 11 points and Klein had eight points and nine rebounds.
Okawville 56, Mount Carmel 48
Senior Jeremy Weeke had a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds and junior Jacob Brammeier added 16 points as the Rockets held off the Aces' push late in the fourth quarter.
Okawville (19-5), ranked sixth in the Class 1A state poll, built a 48-30 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Mount Carmel went on an 18-6 run to get within 54-48 in the final minute. But a layup by senior Travis Thoeming iced the outcome.
Cairo 85, Valmeyer 43
Cairo led just 13-10 after one quarter before pulling away. Senior Terion Taylor had 21 points and junior Raquan Nelson had 18 for the Pilots. Sophomore Zach Williams had 11 points for Valmeyer.
Other scores from the showcase were: Steeleville 60, Sesser-Valier 57; Lanark Eastland 43, Goreville 41; Greenville 59, Salem 56; and St. Joseph-Ogden 69, Massac County 57.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.