MASCOUTAH — In the case of the East St. Louis Flyers on Wednesday it was all about execution.
And in the second half of their Class 3A Mascoutah Sectional semifinal, the Flyers were nearly flawless.
Deshawn Munson scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half -- including eight straight free throws in the fourth quarter --as the Flyers handed Centralia a 64-46 defeat before a capacity crowd at Mascoutah High School.
Centralia (21-9), getting two 3-pointers from Jerod Simmons-Young, led by seven points in the first quarter and trailed just 29-24 at halftime.
But with Munson slowly taking over in the second half with pinpoint passes and drives to the basket, the Flyers gradually pulled away.
"We expected a battle. Centralia is a great team, well-coached with great players. We know every game from here on out is going to be a dogfight and that's exactly what Centralia gave us tonight,'' Flyers coach Tony Young said. "It's all about execution and making adjustments and we did that at halftime. Then the team came out and executed the game plan to perfection."
Senior Johnny McCray added 13 points and helped wear down the Orphans inside during the second half.
But Munson, who finished with his 12th triple-double of the season with 22 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, led the way.
"We struggled early, but then at halftime we all got together and said we had to pick it up,'' Munson said. "We played the way we can in the second half.''
The win lifts the Flyers (22-7) into the title game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Cahokia. The Comanches (30-3) advanced with an 85-65 win over Carbondale on Tuesday. East St. Louis defeated Cahokia 61-60 in the championship game of the Class 3A Althoff Regional a year ago.
Coached by former Alton mentor Lee Bennett, Centralia ran out of gas in the second half.
Munson scored inside to start the third quarter and Michael Scott nailed a 3 as the Flyers quickly expanded their lead to 41-29 heading into the final period.
Centralia closed to within seven points early in the fourth quarter, but Munson hit a free throw and basket and after McCray scored off a touch pass from Munson, the Flyers' lead was back at 12 points with just over four minutes remaining.
"When you're bigger, stronger, more physical and quicker, there is less a chance that you're going to get fatigued. That's what happened in the fourth period," Bennett said. "I thought we did a good job on Munson but he took advantage of the situation late in the game. "But I wanted us to compete tonight and we did that.''
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