East St. Louis junior forward Karon Randolph insists he had a "bad night" on the court Friday.
But that's an awfully hard sell considering his 19-point performance in O'Fallon's rowdy Panther Dome on a day that's been circled on the Southwestern Conference schedule for weeks.
It was, in fact, Randolph's mid-court steal and layup that broke a fourth-quarter tie to pave the way to the Flyers' key 60-57 road win over O'Fallon.
Another easy layup off a steal made it a two-possession game, which was key as the Flyers landed just one of their eight free throws in the games final 18 seconds.
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A bad night?
"You know what the thing is I love about that kid?" said East St. Louis coach Tony Young. "It's not all about the points to him. He looks at everything else. If he lets somebody score on him, he's upset, if he doesn't block out one time, he's upset. That's the sign of a champion."
The Flyers improved to 13-5 with the win, and a perfect 8-0 in Southwestern Conference play.
O'Fallon had previously won six straight and 10 of their last 11. It falls to 13-6 in suffering just its second loss in conference play.
"It's one game, it's not the end of the season," said O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson. "You can't let a game like this define your season. It's one we'd like to have, we'd have felt a whole lot better with a win. But we know we have one more chance at them and we'd love to have two more chances to play them. You know those are going to be bigger games than this one."
Gibson has reason to be upbeat in the wake of the tough loss, given the Panthers persistence even as some in the crowd began heading toward the doors.
The Panthers were down 60-54 after East Side's Antonio Johnson hit a free throws with 10.4 seconds left. O'Fallon senior Darien McClain, with a Flyer defender in his face, hit a three-point basket from 30 feet out to draw the Panthers to within three points.
Gibson called for a timeout with 3.4 seconds left when the Flyers' Antony Johnson missed the first of two free throws. McClain picked up the rebound when Johnson missed the second and launched a full-court shot that hit the neck of the rim.
“He did everything but make it go in,” Gibson said of the near-miss miracle shot.
O'Fallon didn't have its first lead of the game until opening the second half with an 8-0 run. From there the lead changed hands four more times.
O'Fallon's Donovan Franklin was the game's high scorer with 28 points. McCain and Chance Armstrong each added nine.
"You've got to give those kids credit," Young said of O'Fallon's effort. "Darien McClain, that was a huge shot ... a huge shot. Donovan had a good game. Those kids are good."
East St. Louis hadn't played since defeating Alton Jan. 23.
"It's tough to come back after 10 days of not playing and come back here against a team like O'Fallon,” Young said. “O'Fallon is a really good team. To come here and win in this hostile environment is huge for us as a team. I’m just really proud of these kids right now.”
Antonio Johnson was the only other player in double figures for East St. Louis with 11. Jeremiah Tilmon, East Side’s 6-foot-11 sophomore, wasn’t a factor offensively with just five points. He was solid on the defensive end, however, especially late when the Panthers were trying to find easy points close to the basket.
East St. Louis returns to the Panther Dome for the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout starting Feb. 7. O’Fallon next faces Collinsville next Friday.