After 27 years at Fletcher Gym in Collinsville, the Springfield Southeast Spartans finally reached the winner’s circle.
Junior Terrion Murdix scored 27 points, senior Kobe Medley had 16 and junior Anthony Fairlee added 15 as the Spartans defeated Collinsville 68-56 to win the 34th annual Collinsville-Prairie Farms Holiday Classic before a near-capacity crowd.
“It’s tough. This isn’t an easy tournament to win,” said 10th-year Southeast coach Lawrence Thomas, whose team improved to 10-2. “There’s so many talented teams down here year in and year out. It’s not an easy place to play; it’s not an easy tournament to win. It was our turn to win it, and our kids went out and took it.”
The 6-foot-3 Fairlee was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, as he averaged 16.8 points and eight rebounds. Murdix and Medley made the all-tournament team.
Collinsville, which received 18 points from sophomore Ray’Sean Taylor and 15 points from junior Marshall Harrison, fell to 8-6.
Harrison banked in a 25-point 3-pointer from the left wing to end a frenetic first half and whittle the Kahoks’ deficit to 40-39, but Southeast slowed down the game in the second half and outscored Collinsville 28-17.
Fairlee fouled out with 3:43 to to play, but with him on the bench, the Spartans assumed control with a 10-0 run in a two-minute span later in the fourth quarter. Murdix made six free throws, Medley had two and junior Michael Tyler had a basket.
The Spartans outrebounded Collinsville 22-14 and collected nine offensive boards, which helped them score 11 points off second chances.
“They’re very disciplined, and they decided to slow the game down,” said Kahoks coach Darin Lee, whose team was shooting for its first championship in the tournament since 2004. “We couldn’t take it from them. They’re a good enough team (to do that). They’ve got good upperclassmen, veterans.
“We just needed to get a lead. We needed to play better defensively. We can’t give up 25 points in the first quarter and think we’re going to win a championship.”
The Spartans’ previous best finishes at Collinsville were in 2010 when they placed second to Belleville East and in 1985 when they placed second to Lincoln.
“Our kids wanted this tonight,” Thomas said. “They were not going to be denied. Anthony fouled out, but the kids picked him up. They told him, ‘We’ve got you. We’ve got you, captain.’ All the kids contributed. All of them deserve to be mentioned. This is a hard place to play and a hard place to win.”
For the Kahoks, it was a memorable tournament despite falling short in the championship game. They defeated Riverview Gardens 67-45 in the opening round Thursday, then outlasted East St. Louis 68-67 and thrashed Decatur MacArthur 88-63, both on Friday, to advance into the title game.
Taylor, who made two free throws with no time remaining on the clock to beat East Side, had a career-high 43 points and set a tournament and school record with 29 free throws – on 29 attempts – in the victory over MacArthur.
“This is going to help us confidencewise for the rest of the year. There’s no doubt,” Lee said. “Overall, we had a good tournament. We’ve just got to be a better defensive team. We’ve got to find a signature defense. We have to start on the defensive end and get some stops, so we don’t have to put so much pressure on our offense.”
In addition to Fairlee, Murdix and Medley, all-tournament players were: Collinsville’s Taylor and sophomore Keydrian Jones; Edwardsville senior Jack Marinko; East St. Louis junior Terrence Hargrove Jr.; Oakville senior Brenden Gillmann; Rockford East senior Scott Gowan; Quincy senior Aaron Shoot; and Lincoln senior Isaiah Bowers.