O'FALLON — A career-best performance by senior Chris Mathes extended Collinsville's season by at least one game Wednesday.
Mathes scored 26 points and was 7-for-9 on 3-pointers as the third-seeded Kahoks defeated second-seeded Belleville West 71-65 in the semifinals of the Class 4A O'Fallon Regional.
"I was feeling it," the 6-foot-3 Mathes said. "(My teammates) were able to drive and get me open. (My confidence) was way up there. Once I hit a couple, I was feeling it and I just kept shooting them, and they kept going in.
"I'm pinching myself."
It was Collinsville's season-high in points and it gave the Kahoks their second win over West in less than a week. It won 46-44 on Friday on senior Briley Kellison's last-second 3-pointer.
The victory sends the Kahoks (13-17) into the championship game against fourth-seeded O'Fallon (9-17) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Panthers shocked top-seeded Belleville East 70-59 in overtime Tuesday.
Who would have believed a Collinsville-O'Fallon title game?
"Nobody. Not one person anywhere --including (O'Fallon coach) Rick (Gibson) and I," said Collinsville coach Darin Lee, whose team defeated O'Fallon 59-54 and 61-39 in the regular season.
"Rick was probably planning on playing West, and if I had won, I was planning on playing Belleville East. Our (Southwestern) conference is so tough and so balanced. When you play all these teams at the same time, you're not going to beat them every time."
Senior Falando Wilkinson added 21 points for Collinsville, while Kellison had nine and junior Tanner Houck had eight. The Kahoks made 12 3-pointers on 15 attempts (80 percent) and were 17-for-20 from the free-throw line (85 percent).
"They shot the ball exceptionally well," Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. "Falando broke us down up top and we had to help, and Falando was unselfish. Like good players do, he found (his teammates)."
Senior Nick Van Osdale led the Maroons (17-10) with 22 points, 16 coming in the second half. Senior D.J. Owens returned to the lineup after missing five consecutive games with an ankle injury and had 19 points and five 3-pointers.
Lee said the Kahoks knew Mathes was capable of a breakout game, and he certainly wasn't arguing with the timing of it.
"We've been waiting for that because he's been shooting it like that in practice," Lee said. "He gets an open look in practice and it's in. It's bottom. We just haven't found him as much.
"Everybody's guarding Falando. We've talked to Falando: 'Distribute that ball a little bit when other people (are open). You can't go one-on-two, one-on-three.' That's what's happened lately, and that's why his scoring has gone down."
The only blemish on Mathes' big night was an uncontested missed dunk late in the fourth quarter. By that point, however, Collinsville led 65-55 with a little over a minute to play.
"He shouldn't have done that," Lee said. "Don't give up two points, man. They're hard enough to get."
Mathes offered little more than a sheepish smile about the missed dunk, preferring instead to focus on the win.
"We knew we had a chance," he said. "They're a great team, though. We played good defense. Every single team in this conference is good, so anybody can beat anybody at any time."
West used an 8-0 run to take an 18-11 lead early in the second quarter. The Kahoks answered with an 11-0 surge to lead 22-18 halfway through the period.
Kellison's 3-pointer with six seconds to play in the half gave Collinsville a 31-25 lead at the intermission.
The Maroons whittled the Kahoks' lead to one point on two occasions in the third quarter, but Collinsville responded each time with clutch baskets that kept it in control.
In the fourth quarter, Collinsville took a 52-42 lead on two free throws by Houck. After the Maroons went on a 7-0 push to make it 52-49 with 5:35 to play, Mathes hit a 3 out of the right corner to make it 55-49.
West was no closer than four points the rest of the way.
"We hit a big shot every time we needed one. Every time," Lee said.
It was another agonizing facet of the loss for the Maroons.
"It's disappointing," Muniz said. "In the third quarter, we had it down to a one-possession game twice and we just couldn't find a way to tie it or get a lead. I thought our kids played hard. (But) 12 3-pointers. ... They didn't miss a whole lot.
"We had a nice season. My kids gave me every ounce of effort every game out there."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.