ST. LOUIS — Cahokia's first-quarter momentum disappeared in a flash Thursday.
The Comanches forged a 22-8 lead against Columbia (Mo.) Hickman, but the Kewpies returned the favor with a 25-5 run over the next nine minutes that fueled a 74-53 victory in the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout at Scottrade Center.
Junior Jimmy Whitt was in the middle of Hickman's turnaround. The 6-foot-3 guard, one of the top prospects in the country, scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Kewpies remained undefeated at 12-0.
"These guys have been through the ringers; they've been through the wars," Hickman coach David Johnson said. "They know that it's four quarters, and they're going to play it all the way through.
"I was a little worried being down (14) early, but I knew there was still plenty of time. Our defensive intensity wasn't there early. Once they started picking it up, it started to pay dividends for us because we started getting stops and seeing the ball go in the bucket."
Senior Chris Clark added 20 points and senior Mason Murray chipped in with 11 for Hickman. The Kewpies, who forced 21 turnovers, shot 64 percent (14-for-22) in the second half.
Cahokia (9-5) was led by senior Darius Austin's 18 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Carleton Rivers had nine points.
Comanches coach Darian Nash kept his players holed up in their locker room for 35 minutes after the game.
"We just gave up. We didn't put our best foot forward," a dejected Nash said. "But like I told them, this is dress rehearsal for the playoffs. If we get better, we'll go deep. If we continue to give up leads like that, we'll be one and done.
"This is on the team. We've got to get a leader. We've got to get some guys to step up and say, 'OK, I'm not going to let this happen.' In past years, we had it. I think it's just a process."
Whitt put an exclamation point on his terrific performance late in the game. After a steal, Clark raced toward the rim on a fast break and passed the ball off the backboard to the trailing Whitt.
The carom appeared to come off the glass too hard, but Whitt reached back and grabbed it with his right hand, and in one motion finished a convincing dunk to excite the crowd.
"That was pretty nice," said a Whitt, who has received 12 offers from Division I schools, including Missouri. "That shows some of the athleticism that I have. I like to save it up for big games like this. I don't want to break it out too often.
"After we got going, the game became real fun. We got the pace we like to play --an up-and-down game. So it was a real fun game. Coach expected me to play big since it was such a big game, so I just wanted to play at the level I knew I could play at."
Johnson called Whitt's game "spectacular."
"He showed why he's probably the best player in the state of Missouri," Johnson said.
Cahokia took a 16-5 lead on junior Montez Crumble Jr.'s 3-pointer with 1:57 to play in the first quarter. The lead grew to 22-8 on sophomore Tarkus Ferguson's 3, a basket by Rivers and a free throw by Rivers.
But Whitt finished the first quarter with a dunk, and the Kewpies scored the first 12 points of the second quarter to extend their run to 14-0. Hickman took the lead for good at 28-26 on Whitt's drive through the lane with 3:04 to play in the half.
"We didn't protect (the lane)," Nash said. "We gave up a lot of direct drives to the basket. We've been off and not able to practice, but that's not excuse. We've got to finish those games."
The Kewpies led 33-27 at halftime despite being 12-for-42 from the field --with no assists --and 0-for-11 on 3-pointers. The teams combined to go 5-for-32 on 3s (16 percent).
Hickman also was able to withstand a poor showing by senior Douglas Johnson, who came into the game averaging 17.6 points per game. Johnson, the coach's son, finished with three points on 1-for-17 shooting. It hardly mattered.
"It was a great atmosphere to be in," David Johnson said. "It was a good test for us. That's a good basketball team, Cahokia. They showed what they were about, particularly in the first half when they played us really tough. Our guys just pulled it together."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.