BELLEVILLE — Collinsville coach Darin Lee was fighting a late-winter bug Friday, but he felt much better after the Kahoks completed a 66-59 victory over Belleville West.
Juniors Emondre Rickman and Anfirnee Wilkinson scored 19 points apiece for Collinsville, which used a 14-0 run in the first half to take control before holding off the pesky Maroons in a Southwestern Conference game.
It was the most dominant performance of the season for the slender 6-foot-8 Rickman, who came into the game averaging 6.4 points per game. Rickman, who has endured his share of growing pains, was 8-for-11 from the field with a pair of dunks.
"I just came back from an (ankle) injury, so I wanted to come out with authority and get a win," he said. "I've been ready to get back out there. I was pushing for 20 (points), but I got 19. I feel like I'm going to be a good post player."
Lee hopes Rickman's right.
"He's healthier," Lee said. "He kept turning his ankle early in the season, and that bothered him. We're probably doing a better job of getting the basketball to him. He's working. He's been tough in there, and he's doing a better job taking care of the ball.
"It helps our whole team and program. Our guards know it opens things up for them. It makes us hard to guard."
Collinsville improved to 12-14 overall and 4-8 in the SWC. The Kahoks shot 52 percent (22-for-42) from the field, including 65 percent (13-for-20) in the first half, helping them take a 32-28 lead at the break. They also were 18-for-21 on free throws.
Senior Eugene Jones had a strong game for West with 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting, but it wasn't enough to rescue the Maroons (5-18, 2-10) with Rickman running rampant in the paint.
"The first game, their outside shooting hurt us," West coach Joe Muniz said. "We were doubling down on him and they hit a bunch of shots. Tonight, he was the difference in the game. The young man's got a lot of talent.
"For us, it's not good to see that it's coming out now. We didn't have anybody that could stop him one-on-one."
Collinsville trailed 12-8 in the first quarter. The Kahoks reeled off the next 14 points to take a 22-12 lead at the 7:11 mark of the second quarter. Wilkinson had seven points and a 3-pointer in the drive, and junior Brett Langley had a 3.
But West rallied, getting within two before trailing by four at the half. The Maroons again fell behind by six during the third quarter, but would cut the deficit to two.
Jones opened the fourth quarter with a 3 to bring the Maroons within 42-41, but Langley answered with a 3 to put Collinsville ahead 45-41. West junior Demond White also popped a 3-pointer and it again was a one-point game at 45-44.
But Rickman followed with a three-point play and a baseline dunk to make it 50-44 with 5:47 left in the game.
"That was huge," Muniz said. "They called timeout and we were pressing. We wanted to press early (on their possession) and then get back on defense, but we gave up a dunk."
After Jones scored to bring the Maroons within 50-46, Kahoks junior Harrison Wethers made two free throws and junior Nic Gonet hit the biggest shot of the game, a 3 from the right wing, boosting Collinsville's lead to 55-46 with 3:54 left.
"Nic's been shooting it much better," said Lee, who has rewarded him with more playing time. "The JV games have helped him shoot it better in the varsity games."
Collinsville went ahead 64-51 with 48 seconds left. Wilkinson had a basket and four free throws in a span of 1:48.
The Maroons, who shot 40 percent (24-for-60), will get another chance against Collinsville in the first round of the Belleville West Regional on March 3.
"The most important game is going to be two Mondays from now," Muniz said. "It's at our place. Our kids have worked hard all year long. We'll see how long we can keep playing."