HIGHLAND — It's obvious that Tarkus Ferguson now feels like a member of the Cahokia Comanches' basketball family.
Ferguson came off the bench to score 13 points as the Comanches beat the Marion Wildcats 49-41 Friday in the championship game of the Class 3A Highland Sectional.
"Tarkus was due to break out any game now," Cahokia coach Darian Nash said of Ferguson, a 6-foot-3 sophomore transfer from Belleville West. "It's just the transition to the brand of ball we play, and he's getting familiar and comfortable with it. He'll have some great games for us. Hopefully, next week."
Ferguson said his comfort level with his new team has increased with each game this season.
"It's a whole new system and we had to get our chemistry going, but that's at 100 percent now," Ferguson said. "I just wanted to get some energy going for my team and help them the best that I can."
Ferguson's teammates also have accepted him.
"Now since we have been hanging with him, he is a family member," Cahokia senior Gary Hickman said.
The Comanches (24-8) also got 11 points from Hickman, nine points from Montez Crumble, eight points from Darius Austin and six points from DeVonte Williams in advancing to the super-sectional for the second straight year.
They'll play the Lincoln Railsplitters (32-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional.
The Railsplitters beat Champaign Central 47-30 Friday in the championship game of the Mattoon Sectional.
The Wildcats, who split their two South Seven Conference games with the Comanches during the regular season, finished the season with a 16-15 record.
Robby Dosier paced the Wildcats with 19 points. Point guard Moe Jackson added 10 points and Carsen Cash had eight points.
Though they were able to limit the Comanches' scoring, the Wildcats had such trouble getting baskets that they weren't able to capitalize.
"There is just so long and athletic," Marion coach Shane Hawkins said. "They tried to double Moe and get the ball out of his hands, and that's the first time anybody has done that to us. Darian did a great job of coming up with that. He's why we beat them once. Moe can create shots for himself and he can get other guys involved. When they have him minimized or under control, then we struggle offensively."
The Wildcats trailed by 12 points early in the fourth quarter, but they drew within seven points on a 3-pointer by Dosier with 3:47 left.
The Comanches were 0-for-6 at the free-throw line, including missing the front end on two one-and-one opportunities over the next three minutes.
The Wildcats went scoreless during that stretch until Colton Carter sank two free throws with 41 seconds left to get them within 43-38.
"They gave us a couple of chances by missing some free throws, but we could never capitalize," Hawkins said. "I think we had it at seven (points) seven straight possessions. We had a couple of shots right at the basket that missed and we had a couple of open 3's that didn't go. We just could never make that one play to get it back to four or three just to see what they would do."
Hickman broke the free-throw drought by sinking a pair with 38 seconds to go.
"We'll shoot free throws all day tomorrow," Nash said of his team's free-throw struggles. "I don't want to talk. We'll just shoot free throws."
Jackson sank three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer with 21 seconds to go, closing the gap to 45-41.
Ferguson made two free throws with 11 seconds left and then Carleton Rivers put an exclamation point on the victory by slamming down a breakaway dunk with 1.5 seconds left.
The Wildcats grabbed a 6-2 lead, but the Comanches came back to tie the score three times in the first quarter.
The final time came on a basket by Gary Hickman that knotted the score at 10-10 with 1:23 left in the first quarter.
The Comanches wrestled the lead away from the Wildcats on a three-point play by Crumble early in the second quarter, and they went up 17-12 on a 3-pointer by Hickman.
That triggered a barrage of 3-pointers -- two more by the Comanches and three by the Wildcats -- to close out the first half.
Crumble hit another 3-pointer to put the Comanches up 25-18 with 15 seconds left in the second quarter, but Dosier hit a 3-pointer deep from the wing at the buzzer ending the period cut the Wildcats' deficit to 25-21 at halftime.
Williams and Austin each had baskets to start the second half as the Comanches opened up a 29-21 lead.
They'd go up 39-27 on a 3-pointer by Ferguson with 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"When we went into the locker room at halftime, coach gave us the speech that this could be our last game," Hickman said. "He just really motivated us to come out and pick up the intensity a lot."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.