SPRINGFIELD — Calm, cool and with the nerves of a riverboat gambler, Cahokia senior Keenan Minor did what he does best on Tuesday at the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional -- he took over the game.
Held scoreless in the first half, Minor scored 22 points in the second half -- including a go-ahead 3-point shot with 5 minuets, 1 second remaining -- as the Comanches earned their first trip to the state tournament in 28 years with a 56-48 win over Chatham-Glenwood at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.
A non-factor offensively after an 0-for-4 first half, Minor hit his first three shots of the third period then totaled 12 of the Comanches 13 points in the pressure packed fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-2 Minor then broke a 48-all tie with a 25-foot 3-point shot with 5:01 remaining. Minor then made four free throws in the final 2 minutes as Cahokia earned a Class 3A state semifinal bid.
"The first half I was trying to get my teammates involved and see if we could get them (Chatham-Glenwood) in foul trouble because they were bigger then we were,'' Minor said. "The coaches got on me a little bit at halftime and I started to look for my shot a little more.
"This (getting to state) is the best thing that's ever happened to me. But we can't be satisfied with just being there. Now the goal is to win it.''
The win lifts Cahokia into the Class 3A State Tournament semifinals on Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria. The Comanches will take on Chicago Orr at 2 p.m. Chicago Orr defeated North Chicago 63-49 on Tuesday at the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional.
Cahokia's only other trip to the state finals came during the 1984-85 season when it placed fourth in Class AA. That team was coached by Ken McBride, who was on the Comanches bench on Tuesday.
Tickets for the state tournament will be on sale from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. today at the Cahokia High School Athletic office.
As the final buzzer sounded, a large group of Comanches saluted their team while coach Darian Nash gave one fist pump in the air and then hugged his assistant coaches.
"It was a battle and we knew it would be. The kids stepped up and made the plays -- like they have all year,'' Nash said. "It's been a long time coming but for these guys who have been in the program for three and four years, this is what its all about.
"This is just so big for the school, the community and everyone involved with Cahokia basketball.''
Gary Hickman added 10 points for Cahokia while Derenzo Jennings and Vincent Jackson combined for 17 points.
Jennings, Hickman and Jackson were huge in the first half as they combined 23 of the Comanches 29 first half points.
Cahokia junior Darius Austin picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game and spent the remaining 13 minutes of the first half on the bench
Austin would finish with just one point.
The Comanches looked sharp early as they jumped out to a 10-2 lead as Hickman and Jackson scored four points each.
Trailing 17-10 after one quarter, the Titans (24-10) cut the lead to one point -- 29-28 -- at halftime.
With all-stater Peyton Allen scoring 12 points and 6-4 junior center Daniel Helms coming up with six points -- all on offensive putbacks -- Chatham-Glenwood served notice that it would not go away in the second half.
The Titans didn't go anywhere.
"I'm just so proud of this basketball team. With everything we've been through with the injuries and illnesses this season the kids never quit. We just came up a little short tonight,'' Titans coach Todd Blakeman said. "We did a great job of denying him (Minor) the basketball in the first half. The kid is a great shooter. He got a step and he hit big shots.''
Cahokia led 43-39 late in the third quarter but when Miles McAdams got behind the Comanches defense for a layup at the buzzer, Chatham-Glenwood was within two points heading into the final quarter.
Allen, who led the Titans with 19 points, tied the game at 43 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 45 and at 48 and during that time, Chatham-Glenwood had two chances to take the lead but could not convert.
Minor then hit his 3-point shot with 5:01 remaining and the Comanches were able to take nearly three minutes off the clock while in their delay offense.
Carleton Rivers made one of two free throws but it was Minor who converted on four free throws in the late going to ice the win.
"Unbelievable,'' Nash said of Minor's second half. "Now we're going to enjoy this and tomorrow we'll start to get ready for the trip to Peoria.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org