The Marist Redhawks arrived at the 74th Centralia Holiday Tournament as something of an unknown.
Even with an impeccable 12-0 record coming into the tournament, the Redhawks’ comparative strength of schedule in Chicago’s East Suburban Catholic League has cost them the attention of Illinois Class 4A pollsters, who don’t currently have the Redhawks ranked.
From the perspective of O’Fallon first-year coach Brian Muniz, whose Panthers were dominated 67-40 in the tournament’s second round Thursday, the Redhawks possess all the parts of a contender.
“They have an absolute complete team,” he said. “They have a big guy who’s not just big, but is athletic and can pass it. Then they have two really good shooters and a guard who can play defense and get buckets off rebounds. They execute well, and they run good stuff. It’s a really quality team.”
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Marist (14-0) was the first team to advance to the tournament semifinal. The Redhawks will meet top-seeded Champaign Central Friday at 12:30 p.m. O’Fallon (6-4), which scored a double overtime win over Cahokia on Wednesday, was dispatched to a consolation bracket game against Southwestern Conference rival Alton Friday at 8:30 a.m.
Why the Redhawks haven’t gotten more attention state-wide is of little concern to Marist coach Gene Nolan.
“Like any team, you hope to keep developing,” he said. “It’s been a good first half to the season, but it’s still just so long to go. I know like it sounds like I’m being cautious, but we truly think about the day that’s in front of us. More importantly, I think our kids believe that.”
Marist dominated O’Fallon at every turn, shooting 63 percent from the field and outrebounding the Panthers 23 to 12. The Redhawks outscored O’Fallon 48-18 in the paint.
Consecutive 3-point baskets by junior guard Jalen Hodge helped the Panthers put the brakes on a 15-1 Marist run and close the gap to 12 late in the second quarter.
The Redhawks responded with 10-2 run to start the second half and sap whatever energy the Panthers had in reserve.
“The kids played hard and slowed them down a little bit, but even when we were able to get a little closer, they responded with two good possessions,” Muniz said. “That really took whatever momentum we had built.
“At some point we had to get back to our game, which is pressuring the ball. We just couldn’t defend them.”
Marist’s 6-foot-8 senior Justin Brown had a game-high 17 points, including three two-handed dunks off the baseline. Junior guard David Daniels shot 7 for 8 from the field on his way to 15 points.
Hodge led O’Fallon with 10. Ronnie Anthony and Burke Watts had eight apiece. Anthony was assisted off the floor after the game with his right ankle packed in ice. He’s questionable for Friday’s game, Muniz said.
Champaign Central 85, Alton 79 (OT)
The Redbirds pressed the tournament's No. 1 seed for a trip to Friday's semifinals, but fell to the Maroons in overtime.
Alton junior Kevin Caldwell scored 28 points, including six 3-pointers. But he was held scoreless after the third quarter. Dereaun Clay scored 15 to go with nine rebounds and Maurice Edwards added 11.
Central's Tim Finke, one of the nation's top junior recruits, poured in a game-high 40 to go with 11 rebounds. Dee Bailey scored 22 and Doug Wallen had 19 for Central, which fell behind Alton by six points at the end of the third quarter.
Alton falls to 6-3 on the season.
Jacksonville 45, Cahokia 43
The Comanches have lost two games in Centralia by a combined four points, this time falling in a losers’ bracket game to the Crimsons.
Thomas Bell, who had a double-double in a first-round loss to O’Fallon on Wednesday, scored a game-high 19 to lead Cahokia once again Thursday. But Jacksonville put three in double figures, including James White, who counted five 3-pointers among his 17 points.
Cahokia falls to 5-6 and will play Mount Vernon on Friday at 11:30 a.m.