MASCOUTAH — Cahokia senior Keenan Minor didn't mind having his shot blocked in the final seconds Friday.
Minor's attempt from the left side of the lane was slapped away by East St. Louis senior Johnny McCray. The ball went right back to Minor, whose layup beat the buzzer and gave the Comanches a classic 76-74 overtime win over the Flyers in the Class 3A Mascoutah Sectional title game.
"Like I told everybody else, it was unexpected," said the 6-foot-2 Minor, who led Cahokia (31-3) with 23 points. "I wasn't really expecting me to get the ball back after getting my shot blocked.
"Unbelievable. This is the best situation I've ever experienced in my life. I'm just so happy, I don't know what to say."
Cahokia players and fans stormed the court, celebrating a victory that appeared to all but belong to East St. Louis in the fourth quarter when it led 67-60 with 1:34 left and 69-63 with 1:15 to play.
The Comanches avenged a season-ending 61-60 defeat to East St. Louis in the Class 3A Althoff Regional last year. They will play Chatham Glenwood in the Springfield Super-Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Prairie Capital Convention Center.
Chatham Glenwood pasted Champaign Centennial 63-41 in the championship game of the Mount Zion Sectional.
"That's the best feeling," Cahokia coach Darian Nash said after watching Minor's winning layup. "Those guys didn't give up. We told them there was still time. As long as there was time on the clock, we had life. We live to see another day."
Nash called it a "crazy ending."
"You couldn't ask for anything better," he said. "We were blessed. We worked hard and stayed with it."
Senior Derenzo Jennings added 18 points for Cahokia, which also received 15 points from junior Darius Austin and 14 points from senior Vincent Jackson, who spent much of the second half on the bench with foul trouble.
McCray led the Flyers (22-8) with 25 points. Senior Deshawn Munson scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime.
East St. Louis hurt itself from the free-throw line, finishing 18-for-34. It was 7-for-14 in the fourth quarter and 1-for-6 in overtime.
"Basketball comes down to making plays --taking care of the ball, hitting free throws when it's time to. It comes down to putting teams away and executing," Flyers coach Tony Young said. "We've been doing that for so long.
"Coming in here tonight, I don't know how many we missed in a row. But you've got to make free throws. You make free throws, you put the game away. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."
Cahokia raced away to a 26-10 lead in the second quarter and was ahead 36-24 at halftime as the Flyers had 11 turnovers.
But as Nash and most of the standing-room crowd probably anticipated, East St. Louis began to chip away.
The Flyers outscored the tentative Comanches 26-14 in the third quarter to knot the score at 50. Jackson, who had 12 points at halftime, sat idly on the Cahokia bench with three fouls as East Side mounted its comeback.
Jackson came back in the fourth quarter, but quickly registered his fourth foul and again found a seat on the sidelines.
Minor's three-point play cut the Flyers' lead to 69-66 with 1:04 remaining. After East Side called timeout, junior Justin Smith was fouled but missed two free throws with 35.2 seconds to play.
McCray made one of two free throws to put the Flyers ahead 70-66 with 21.6 seconds left, but Minor hit a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with 13 seconds left to bring the Comanches within 70-69.
After a Cahokia timeout, McCray was fouled and again made one of two free throws to put the Flyers ahead 71-69 with 11.1 seconds left.
The Comanches then had a chance to win after Austin drove the lane for the game-tying layup while being fouled by Munson with 4.6 seconds to play. Austin, however, missed the ensuing free throw, sending the game into overtime.
The Flyers took a 73-71 lead on McCray's basket, but Minor countered with a basket to make it 73-73. Cahokia junior Gary Hickman hit a free throw to make it 74-73 with 56.2 seconds left.
On the Comanches' next possession, Munson came up with a steal and was going in for the go-ahead layup, but the basket was disallowed when senior Joseph Cook touched the rim.
Munson was fouled by Hickman on the play and made one of two free throws to tie the game at 74 with 19.5 seconds remaining. Cahokia followed with its deciding game-winner.
"I'm happy for us," Minor said. "When we got down, we kept telling each other, 'Keep calm.' We kept calm and played as a team. That's what we've been working on all year."
Nash, whose team survived a 12-for-25 performance from the free-throw line, credited the Flyers, but expressed relief that the Comanches finally finished the job against East Side.
"Coach Tony has done a great job with those guys, with the different things and issues he's had to deal with," Nash said. "It's a great group of guys over there. They're competitive.
"(But) it's just one of those revenge days. I'm glad we got the win and got out of here."
Young said the game, which was preceded by much hype, easily lived up to expectations.
"It was an amazing game," he said. "It's what you thought it was going to be. A last-second shot in overtime? What other way for a game to end, right?"
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.