Cahokia senior Thomas Bell scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and the Comanches made their free throws down the stretch in a 52-45 win over Mater Dei on Friday in the title game of the Class 3A Mater Dei Regional.
Controlling the tempo for the first three quarters, Mater Dei (18-12) led 37-36 following the third of three fourth-quarter baskets by senior Nolan Robben. But a free throw by Bell followed by two free throws by Cahokia sophomore Richard Robinson gave the Comanches the lead for good at 39-37.
The 6-foot-5 Bell, held in check for most of the night, scored seven of the Comanches’ final 15 points to seal the win.
“My teammates picked me up early in the game, when the shots weren’t going and I was struggling a little bit. I felt like I had to pick them up in the fourth quarter,” Bell said.
The win lifts Cahokia (20-10) into the Benton Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the Benton Rangers. Benton defeated Carbondale 53-50 to win the Carterville Regional on Friday.
Connecting on their first five shots of the game, Mater Dei jumped out to a 9-2 lead. And with 6-8 senior center Mason Toennies leading the way with 14 points, the Knights went toe-to-toe with one of the more athletic teams in the metro-east.
But a 10-2 Comanches surge during a two-minute span late in the fourth quarter was the difference.
“We just turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter.” Cahokia coach Darian Nash said. “Mater Dei is such a good, well-coached team that we knew they would stay in the end. And they did. I just told the kids during a timeout that we needed to give it everything we had. It was now or never.”
Following Robinson’s go-ahead basket and a missed shot by the Knights, senior guard Jakorey Davis scored on a reverse layup to increase the Comanches lead to 41-37.
During their next possession and facing heavy Comanches pressure near mid-court, the Knights turned the ball over. After recovering the ball just before it went out of bounds, Davis threw a pass to Bell, who slammed home a two-handed dunk as Cahokia took a 43-37 lead with just more the two minutes remaining.
Toennies and Bell then exchanged baskets before Bell scored again to gave Cahokia a 47-39 lead with 57 seconds left the game.
“I don’t think anything really happened to change the game in the fourth quarter, except for the fact that they hit a couple of shots, and we had a turnover or two,” Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg said. “When they (Cahokia) get up a couple of baskets late in the game, and they go into their delay game, they are difficult to defend.”