There was no mystery to O’Fallon’s game plan Saturday.
The Panthers took the ball to the rim with aplomb, repeatedly burning the Collinsville Kahoks in a 61-51 victory in a Southwestern Conference game at Vadalabene Center.
Juniors Ronnie Anthony and Jalen Hodge were the ringleaders. Anthony set the early tone by scoring 13 of his 20 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers. Hodge, meanwhile, scored 12 of his 19 points in the deciding fourth quarter.
O’Fallon, with no player taller than 6-foot-4, has opened its season with a 4-1 record under first-year coach Brian Muniz. Last year, the Panthers were 8-19.
“We tried to attack the rim and be aggressive on the offensive end. Try to take it at them instead of wait for them,” said Hodge, who was 7-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. “We have a lot of shooters, but we have to mix it up. If we just shoot it, we’re going to be too easy to guard. If we mix it up, we’re a hard team to play.
“This is a good win for us. We had to come out and show people that we’re not the same team as last year.”
Senior Ryan Fulton chipped in with 11 points for the Panthers, who shot an impressive 54 percent (25-for-46) and committed eight turnovers, only one in the second half.
“We can’t just rely on the outside shot,” Muniz said. “When we did, that’s when (Collinsville) came back. We’ve got to keep attacking and try to get to the line. We want to spread teams out and try to get to the basket.”
Collinsville (3-3, 0-1) got scoring from four senior. Ronnie Midgett and Kenrique Brown had 14 points apiece, Chandler Buehne had 13 and Austin Knight had 10.
“Our defense, obviously, wasn’t real good,” Kahoks coach Darin Lee said. “They got to the basket. We didn’t keep them in front of us and we didn’t rotate down and get any help.”
The Kahoks, after taking a 40-39 lead on Brown’s basket in the lane ahead of the buzzer ending the third quarter, were outscored 22-11 in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to take control 48-40 with 5:37 left. Hodge made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer in the left corner. Hodge, Fulton and Hodge again followed with easy layups.
Fulton had a steal and layup to extend the lead to 57-47 with 2:25 to play. The Kahoks managed only two points in the final 2:08.
“In the fourth quarter, they were maybe a little worn down. We kept the intensity up,” Muniz said. “If we get layups, that gets us going and gives them a defeated attitude.”
Collinsville, which trailed 9-0 and 11-2 in the first four-plus minutes of the first quarter, hurt itself with 19 turnovers, 11 in the first half. It shot 51 percent (20-for-39).
“We did some things well,” Lee said. “We had a two-point lead going to the fourth quarter. We can compete. We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve got to keep competing.”