O'Fallon romps in opening game at Centralia

News-DemocratDecember 26, 2013 

— Going to some extreme measures to make sure that his team didn't sleepwalk its way through its opening-round game worked for O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson.

Donovan Franklin scored 24 points as the Panthers beat the Christian County (Ky.) Colonels 68-38 Thursday in the first round of the Centralia Holiday Tournament.

The Panthers prepared for their 8:30 a.m. contest by holding early morning practices on Monday and Tuesday. They also arrived almost 90 minutes prior to the start of their game so they had more time to warm up.

"We told the kids, 'Hey, you're playing at 8:30 and some teams are going to pout about it and act tired,' and we refused to let our kids be tired,'' Gibson said. "We practiced early the last couple of days and today we left at 6 (a.m.). We opened up the gym today. There weren't any balls out. We were here by 7 (a.m.) and we basically had a practice for about an hour before we played. I think that kind of woke the kids up.''

The Panthers were wide awake as they grabbed an 18-13 lead in the first quarter and extended it to 30-21 by halftime.

"We tried to send the message to the other team that we came to play. We're ready,'' Franklin said of arriving so early for their game.

Franklin had the hot hand all game. He was 8-for-12 shooting, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range.

"Especially early, he stepped out and made a couple of shots,'' Gibson said of Franklin. "We haven't been shooting the ball real well the last couple of games. It was good for him to come out and hit a shot and Darien (McClain) to hit a shot.''

The Panthers (5-5) advance to play the Cahokia Comanches (7-3) at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The two teams met in the championship game of the tourney in 2009 and 2011, with the Comanches winning both times.

Franklin hit three 3-pointers during an 18-4 run in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 48-25 cushion.

"I have to give credit to my teammates for getting me the ball,'' Franklin said. "They realized that I was making shots.

The Panthers also got 11 points from McClain and nine points from Naason Cook.

Isaiah Armstrong had a team-high nine rebounds, including four offensive boards.

"We had a hard time keeping them off the offensive glass all game,'' Christian County coach Josh Smith said. "They were much bigger than we were, and you have to be very mentally tough, very physical against a team like that when you're outsized. You have to put a body on them. I don't think we did a very good job of that.''

The Colonels (3-6), who start three sophomores, were led by Tyrik Edwards with 10 points and Isaiah Pollard with eight points and seven rebounds.

The early morning game was equally tough logistically for the Colonels, who drove up from Hopkinsville, Ky., on Wednesday night.

"We got in last night a little before 10 (p.m.) and guys were in bed by 11 (p.m.) or 11:30 (p.m.),'' Christian County coach Josh Smith said. "We got up today at 6 (a.m.). It was a tough turnaround. One of the toughest things about it was we didn't a get chance to practice on Monday and Tuesday. We just came off a tournament last Saturday, and we felt it was important to get our guys a couple of days off to get their legs back up underneath them.

"The thing is there are no excuses. We like to put our guys in tough situations, adverse situations where they have to battle through.''

Cahokia 92, Blue Island Eishenhower 61

The two-time defending tourney champions Cahokia Comanches rode a 20-0 start to a win over the Blue Island Eishenhower Cardinals in their first-round game.

"They're just good,'' said Cardinals coach Mike Curta, who coached previously with Mount Carmel. "I can make every excuse in the world, they're just good. I'll be interested in seeing the team that beats them. Somebody beats them, they are really good, too, and I'm glad we don't have to play them on our side of the bracket.''

The Cardinals play a run-and-gun style with waves of substations, but it was the Comanches who got their fast-break rolling right away.

"We can go either way,'' Cahokia coach Darian Nash said. "We practice on run-and-gun and we can go to half-court. You have to be versatile to try and advance in the state playoffs.''

Cahokia's Darius Austin paced all scorers with 25 points. He was 11-for-15 from the field, with most of his baskets coming off the fast break.

Nash said he got on Austin for not finishing strong on the fast break a couple of times.

"Just go strong, look at your target and finish,'' Nash said. "I thought we played pretty well defensively. We gave up some 3's, but our legs were tired.''

The Comanches also got 19 points from both Gary Hickman and DeVonte Williams.

Nash said he wasn't worried about a letdown after the fast start.

"That's how we lost three games, we had a letdown,'' Nash said. "Those guys seem to have come together and are gelling as one now.''

The Cardinals, who were 10-for-46 on 3-pointers, were led by Khalil Williams with 14 points and Romale Cook with 12 points.

The Comanches led 30-12 at the end of the first quarter and maintained a safe cushion the rest of the way.

"Twenty-nothing is a tough one to come back from,'' Curta said. "I think there was a point in the second quarter -- I think (the lead) was 17 (points) -- where I thought what we were doing got them a little fatigued. And, then reality set in for me and that was just a wish.''

Belleville West 47, Jacksonville 40

The Belleville West Maroons forced 22 turnovers in a win over the Jacksonville Crimsons.

No player scored in double figures for the Maroons, but they had five players who tallied six or more points.

Eugene Jones led the way with nine points, Cole Dibadj had eight pojnts, Jalen Foster and Brian Hill each had seven points and Nicholas Givens had six points.

Hill also had 12 rebounds, while Foster also had three steals.

Next up for the Maroons (3-5) is the host Centralia Orphans (9-0) at 7:45 p.m. Friday.

The Crimsons (2-5) led 8-6 at the end of the first quarter, but the Maroons pulled in front 20-13 by halftime.

Blake Hance was the top scorer for the Crimsons with 12 points.

Alton 85, Addison Trail 60

Four players scored in double figures as the Alton Redbirds downed the Addison Trail Blazers.

The Redbirds (8-0) got 18 points from Carlos Anderson, 16 points from Michael Williams-Bey, 15 points from De'Antae McMuarray and 10 points from Darrius Edwards.

Anderson also had 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

The Redbirds led 38-28 at halftime and pulled away to a 67-46 advantage by the end of the third quarter.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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