Collinsville sophomore Ray’Sean Taylor could play basketball for many years and not enjoy better times than he had Friday.
After hitting a free throw with no time left on the clock to defeat East St. Louis 68-67 in the quarterfinals of the Collinsville-Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, Taylor set a tournament record by going 29 of 29 from the free-throw line in the Kahoks’ 88-63 over Decatur MacArthur in the semifinals. Taylor finished with 43 points.
The former tournament record for free throws in a game was 19 by Richard Keene in 1990. Taylor’s 29 free throws also broke the single-game school record set by Marc Fletcher on Nov. 24, 1973. Fletcher had 21 free throws in a game against Thornton North.
“In practice, we shoot a lot of free throws,” said Taylor, who has made his last 30 free throws. “I just went and knocked them down, and I had momentum from the (quarterfinal) game. I’ve got a lot of confidence since in practice, we shoot them a lot. When I get into a game, I’m not nervous.”
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Collinsville (8-5) will meet Springfield Southeast (9-2) in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Southeast, which is competing in the tournament for the 27th time but has yet to win the title, defeated Lincoln 38-30 in the other semifinal.
The Kahoks last won the tournament championship in 2004 when they beat Quincy 47-46. They placed second in 2009, 2011 and 2014.
Collinsville coach Darin Lee agreed that Taylor’s performance was one of the most unbelievable he has seen in a long career.
“I know Lucas (O’Rear) had 40 (points) once or twice,” said Lee, who coached O’Rear at Nashville before O’Rear starred at Northern Iowa. “But I’ve never had 29 out of 29 (free throws). Hitting that game-winner in the afternoon ... You make that big one and the rim starts getting big. That really made a difference in his confidence.”
The Kahoks trailed MacArthur (6-5) 18-17 after one quarter, but dominated the second quarter and took a 43-25 lead on junior Marshall Harrison’s 3-pointer out of the left corner with three seconds to play.
The athletic Generals cut the gap to 12 points (62-50) with 6:41 left in the game, but Collinsville reasserted itself and stormed to the one-sided victory.
Led by Taylor, the Kahoks were 40 of 43 from the free-throw line. Sophomore Aaron Molton finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and senior Braeden Lemp had 10 points. Harrison had nine points and six assists.
“Especially with a team this young, to come in and beat two athletic teams like East St. Louis and MacArthur,” Lee said, not completing the sentence but lauding his players instead. “We have two bigs (Molton and sophomore Keydrian Jones); we start them both, but can rotate them. We always have a big body out there. It makes a difference.
“And all of the other guys have really done a nice job.”
Jones had 21 points and 11 rebounds in the win over East Side.
The Generals came undone with three second-half technicals and living with the frustration of Collinsville’s ability to counteract any run they would make. Twin brothers Armon and Amir Brummett each finished with 19 points. MacArthur was 6 of 34 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We shot too many 3s,” Generals coach Ron Ingram said. “We didn’t defend the kid (Taylor). We let him get by us. We were bumping him. ... We didn’t run our zone offense like we wanted to. It was just a bad night for us.”
Lee said Southeast will present another stern roadblock for the Kahoks.
“I will say this: They stuck some defense on Lincoln,” Lee said. “I was very impressed with the way they guarded. They’re a well-coached team. They execute well. They’re disciplined on offense.”
East wins twice
The Belleville East Lancers won two games Friday and reached the consolation championship, scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.
First-year coach Jeff Creek was disappointed with his team’s lack of readiness for its tournament opener Thursday against Quincy, a 65-46 loss. But the Lancers defeated Hazelwood East 61-41 and Decatur Eisenhower 58-54.
Senior Jaylen Lacey scored 15 points in the victory over Hazelwood East, while senior Jordan Yates came off the bench and contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds.
In the win over Eisenhower, Yates had 15 points and seven rebounds and junior Kienen Waller had 14 points. The Lancers (7-6) overcame a 27-19 halftime deficit by shooting 75 percent (12 of 16) in the second half.