When the Cahokia Comanches find themselves looking for more offense, they always make sure the attack runs through Thomas “Taco” Bell.
The versatile 6-foot-6 senior guard has helped lead Cahokia to six straight wins, including a 68-62 victory over Confluence Prep Academy on Saturday at the Pinckneyville Panthers Basketball Showecase
“He’s just so long and athletic, he reminds me of Stacey Augmon,” Cahokia coach Darian Nash said, comparing Bell to the former UNLV and NBA star. “He can create his own shots and gets shots off in unbelievable positions. It’s hard to defend him — and it doesn’t hurt that he can step out and hit a three, too.”
Bell erupted for a season-high 35 points and hit five 30-pointers in Cahokia’s win over Collinsville on Jan. 21. Bell also had 33 points in a Dec. 9 loss to Althoff and is averaging 18 points and 8.1 rebounds.
He had 29 points Jan. 24 in a 61-56 overtime victory over South Seven Conference rival Centralia. Bell leads the Comanches with 47 blocked shots and is tied for the team lead with 24 3-pointers.
“It’s been special to coach a guy like that,” Nash said of Bell, whom Nash said is receiving interest from Illinois State, Jackson State, Tennessee State and several junior colleges. “We knew when he came in as a freshman he was going to be pretty nice. That guys works hard day-in and day-out to get better. He’s real coachable; I wish I had 20 more of those guys.”
Bell was also Cahokia’s leading scorer last season, averaging 12.9 points.
Senior guard Jakorey Davis went off for a season-high 28 points in the win over Confluence, including a 14-of-19 performance at the free-throw line.
Davis is averaging 11.1 points, tied with Bell for the team lead in 3-pointers with 24. Richard Robinson (7.1 ppg) has been another scoring threat.
Cahokia (14-7) is second behind Althoff in the South Seven Conference standings with a 4-1 mark in league play. Althoff, which is at Cahokia on Friday, is 6-0 in the conference while Centralia and Carbondale are each 3-3.
“Lately we’ve had a swag, it shows up in practice,” Nash said. “Everybody is intent and ready, even in film sessions. Game days it’s just that swag when we walk in the locker room, all eyes are on the coaching staff and they hear what we’ve got to say. “
Nash said the Comanches are buying into what he and the rest of the coaching staff have been selling when it comes to motivation an execution.
“I think they’re just realizing it’s not the big things that win games,” Nash said. “It’s the little things you do: blocking out, contesting shots, making people earn their shots. Those are the types of things we weren’t doing well in the first half of the season and now we know what we need to do to get better.”
The Comanches have a big week with home conference games Tuesday against Marion and Friday against Althoff. Defending Class 3A state champion Althoff is in the 4A playoffs this season, leaving the area 3A playoff scene wide open with contenders like Centralia, Cahokia, Carbondale, Central and others.
“It’s just out there for the grabbing,” Nash said. “You can never exclude any of us, the South Seven is full of talent again this year. We’re striving to get better every day.”