COLLINSVILLE — Collinsville coach Lori Billy feels like her team has grown by leaps and bounds since early in the season, and now she has proof of it.
Kassidy Smith scored 16 points and Aubreeney Brady added 12 as the Kahoks beat the O'Fallon Panthers 52-31 Thursday in a Southwestern Conference girls game.
The Kahoks (8-11, 4-6) lost to the Panthers 64-46 back on Dec. 12.
"We're at that point of the season where it's a great time to be taking those steps forward," Billy said of the 39-point swing between the two games. "We're a different team than we were back in December, we really are.
"Maturity-wise we have grown and we have some kids that are just playing their guts out right now."
The Kahoks were 5-for-7 on 3-pointers, including back-to-back treys Carlee Marlan and Julie Scheiter that broke a 26-26 tie late in the third quarter and sent them on a 26-5 run to close out the game.
"That was huge," Billy said of her team's hot 3-point shooting. "They just started draining them, and it was lights out. It was pretty amazing to see it."
Scheiter didn't play against the Panthers because of an injury in the first meeting.
The Kahoks also went to a zone defense this time around after playing mostly man-to-man defense against the Panthers last time.
"We just decided to try and make them beat us from the outside," Billy said.
The Panthers (10-10, 3-7) were 5-for-18 from 3-point range. They were led by Ciara Jones with 12 points, Jasmine Bonds with eight points and Blair Butler with six.
"Obviously when shots go in, things look a lot better," O'Fallon coach Ryan Massey said. "They had a very good game plan. This is the way our basketball season has been, this is the way our team has been. Very up and down."
A 3 by Butler led the Panthers out to a 4-2 lead, but the Kahoks reeled off a 14-1 run over the remainder of the first quarter.
The 5-foot-10 Smith scored nine points to key the rally that gave the Kahoks a 15-5 lead.
"I thought Kass had a great night tonight," Billy said. "She got great position inside. We were trying to get the ball inside against them. We felt like we matched up pretty well inside, and we were just trying to get it there."
The Kahoks scored only two points on free throws by Brady in the second quarter as the Panthers closed the gap to 18-17 on a breakaway layup by Jones off a steal with 51 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Panthers tied the score at 24-24 on a 3 by Jones and then took a 25-24 lead on a free throw by Ally Warren with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
With the score tied at 26-26, Mahan and Scheiler hit the back-to-back 3-pointers to send the Kahoks on the 11-0 run.
"There in the third quarter we were actually up by a point and there was a turning point," Massey said. "They got two 3s on two possessions in a row where we kind of lost people.
"The game of basketball is a 32-minute game, and it's never about one single possession, but that was a momentum shift for them. That really got them on a roll, and a lot of their shots went in down the stretch."
Mahan capped the surge with a 3 that put the Kahoks ahead 37-26 with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter.
The Kahoks' lead grew to 21 points on two free throws by Brady with 2:05 remaining.
"They've continued to work and get better, and we have to do the same," Massey said. "We have to go back to the drawing board. We have two games on Saturday against Normal West and Normal Community, so we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to pick our chins up, we have to dust off and we have to go back to work."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.