Benton senior guard Austin Wills scored seven of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Rangers defeated Cahokia 48-43 on Tuesday in a semifinal game at the Class 3A Benton Sectional.
The Rangers trailed the Comanches 24-18 with 1:15 remaining in the first half. But with junior guard Hamilton Page scoring all seven of his points to spark a 16-6 scoring run, Benton (31-2) took the lead — and control of the game.
The Rangers led 34-30 after three quarters, but Cahokia (20-11) cut the deficit to two points late in the fourth quarter. Benton missed seven free throws in the final four minutes of the game, but the Rangers were still able to hold on for the win.
“That’s very uncharacteristic of this team. Normally we shoot them very well. I guess we made enough of them,” Benton coach Ron Winemiller said. “The difference in the game we felt was keeping Cahokia off the offensive boards. We felt that if we could hold them to 15 or less offensive rebounds, that we had an excellent chance to win the game. We held them to nine.”
The win moves Benton into the sectional title game at 7 p.m. Friday at Benton High School. The Rangers take on the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Central and Centralia.
Cahokia, which shot only 29 percent from the field, cut a six-point fourth quarter lead to two points with 24.9 seconds remaining on an offensive rebound by Thomas Bell. After Rangers senior Derek Oxford made one free throw to increase the lead to 46-43, the Comanches’ Damond Harrison had a potential game-tying 3-point jumper go off the back of the rim.
“I don’t think playing here (Benton’s) home court had anything to do with it,” Comanches coach Darian Nash said. “We shot, what, 28 or 29 percent? We just didn’t make the shots.”
Trailing 9-2 early, the Comanches battled back to within 12-11 after one quarter, then used 3-point field goals by sophomore Richard Robinson and senior Jakorey Davis to take their biggest lead late in the second quarter.
Leading 19-18, David hit his 3-point basket, and when Thomas Bell scored on a short jumper, the Comanches led 24-18 with 1:15 remaining in the half.
But on the ensuing trip down the court, a Cahokia player was called for a technical foul. Oxford made both free throws to cut the Comanches lead to 24-20. Cahokia went scoreless for the final minute of the half and first 3:35 of the third quarter as the Rangers took a 26-24 lead.
The Comanches would tie the game twice after that point but never led again.
“I felt the technical was a big play. They (Cahokia) had us on the run, and the technical foul gave us a chance to catch our breath and slow things down,” Winemiller said. “We made two free throws, and instead of being down by six or eight points, we go down four at half. I felt good about that.”
Parker Williams, added 11 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to go along with the 14 points scored by Wills.
Bell scored 11 points for Cahokia.