MASCOUTAH — After watching Keenan Minor destroy opposing defenses for the past four years, Cahokia coach Darian Nash may have finally run out of superlatives in describing his senior sharpshooter.
Shaking off a tough shooting first half, Minor scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the final two quarters as the Comanches broke open a close game and went on for an 85-65 win over Carbondale Tuesday in the semifinals of the Class 3A Mascoutah Sectional.
Held to eight points on four-of-11 shooting in the first two quarters, Minor helped key a Comanches third quarter surge as Cahokia broke the game open.
Using his strength to post up inside, Minor then tallied 13 points in the final quarter as the Comanches advanced into the title game.
"Speechless," Nash said when asked about Minor's performance. "For him to end up with 27 and know that he was off ... When he posts up, its like the old school post up. He uses that body like we did back in the day. Not flashy, he uses that body to get good position and get the ball up.''
Derenzo Jennings added 14 points while Vincent Jackson (13) and Carleton Rivers (12) combined for 25 points as Cahokia (30-3) moved into the title game.
The Comanches will play the winner of Wednesday's Centralia-East St. Louis semifinal. The title game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Beaten twice in the regular season by Cahokia, Carbondale (19-10) stayed with Cahokia for a half.
Getting nine points from Devontavious Payne in the first quarter and nine from Elijah Bidinger in the second quarter, the Terriers trailed just 36-29 at halftime.
But starting the third quarter with two turnovers, which resulted in baskets by Minor and Darius Austin, the Terriers were suddenly down by a 41-29 margin.
Carbondale would get no closer then seven points the rest of the way.
"Those two turnovers to start the third quarter were huge because it got us off to a good start,'' Nash said. "We're always telling the kids that defense wins championships and that was a very important sequence.''
Holding a 48-36 lead following a Carbondale's Austin Billinger, Cahokia went on a 13-6 scoring run over the final 2 minutes 50 seconds of the third quarter.
Rivers and Jackson scored on convention 3-point play and Jennings hit the final of his four 3-point shots to key the run.
Rivers was also a key for Cahokia early in the game as he connected on three 3-point field goal attempts in the first quarter.
"Carleton had a big night for us and I thought his 3-pointers early were key when we were struggling a little bit,'' Nash said. "He's a kid who just comes in to practice everyday and gives us an all-out effort. It was good to see him have a big game tonight.
"Overall, I'm pleased. We didn't shoot free throws as well as we usually do (17-of-28). We'll work on those tomorrow (Wednesday).''
Carbondale coach Jim Miller said the Terriers just couldn't stay with the athletic Comanches for a full four quarters.
"It's no shame losing to them. We got beat by one of the most athletic teams in the south and maybe the entire state tonight,'' Miller said. "They just killed us on the boards. It's almost like their best offense in the second half was to throw it up there and go get it. I thought we competed well with them for 2 1/2 quarters.''
Payne paced Carbondale with 20 points, while Bidinger added 12.
Tickets on sale
Tickets for the Mascoutah Class 3A Sectional final, set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday will be on sale in the Mascoutah High School gym lobby on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m. Tickets will also be on sale on Friday from noon to 2 p.m.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org