CARBONDALE — It was an outstanding year in the South Seven Conference, in which four of the six teams received votes in the state rankings. In the end, Carbondale walked off with the championship.
When the Class 3A sixth-ranked Terriers' Jordan Kelly grabbed a rebound after a potential game-tying free throw attempt bounced off the rim with two seconds to play, Carbondale had held off ninth-ranked Cahokia 61-59.
Carbondale held a slim 60-58 lead with 15 seconds left, but it fouled the Comanches' Carleton Rivers on a 3-point attempt with five seconds left.
However, Rivers made just one of the three attempts.
"Going 8-2 in the conference this year is a big accomplishment," said Carbondale coach Jim Miller. "We played a Cahokia team that got off the bus ready to win a conference championship. They weren't messing around. They gave us their A-game tonight, and we withstood it."
The much-taller Comanches were swatting away Carbondale's shots in the paint left and right. So the Terriers had to rely on jump shots for the most part.
Rivers scored in transition to give Cahokia a 55-52 edge with 2:25 left in the contest. But Devontavius Payne responded with a 3 just a few seconds later.
"It feels great to win this conference because it was one of our goals this season," Payne said. "It was real tough because they're so big, and they block a lot of shots. But we were able to get it done."
Kelly only scored three points for the Terriers, but he nailed a jump shot with 1:32 left to give Carbondale a 57-56 lead.
The Terriers (22-3, 8-2) played a strong second half after falling behind by double digits in the opening 16 minutes.
Payne led Carbondale with 16 points, Allen Billinger added 15, and Shamarc Bursey tallied 13. Lavonte Sutton contributed 10 points as well.
The 5-foot-11 Bursey had the unenviable task of guard 6-foot-7 Darius Austin, who scored 17 points for the Comanches.