Coach Darin Lee and his Collinsville Kahoks were undeterred by a six-game losing streak early in the season.
They lost those games by an average margin of eight points, mostly to teams ahead of them in the Southwestern Conference standings.
But he says a string of lesser opponents takes nothing away from the Kahoks' current six-game winning streak. Especially since it's topped with a Jerseyville Tournament championship, something Collinsville hasn't achieved since 2011.
The Kahoks (14-8) swept their five tournament games by an average margin of 17.6 points. They capped their Jerseyville crown with a 62-27 beating of Pittsfield Saturday.
"We had a nice win against Cahokia in the first game and the other teams, we were a little better than them," Lee said. "But it's tough to win tournaments, we haven't won a tournament since 2011. It was important for our program to get a tournament win."
Lee's players were well-aware of the tournament drought, said senior Emondre Rickman, the round robin's Most Valuable Player.
"I was aware and pretty excited that we won. It's been a struggle and a grind to get to where we are," Rickman said. "Coach reminded us we hadn't won a tournament and we said 'we want this, we want to bring something home."
Collinsville had dispatched Cahokia, Jerseyville, Marquette and Quincy Notre-Dame before its title-clincher against Pittsfield.
Pittsfield got a three-point basket from Korbyn Personett early in the game to take a 5-3 lead. But Rickman responded by dunking a rebound off the rim to tie the game. The Kahoks wrapped up the first quarter with a 11-2 run, and opened the second quarter with a 17-2 rally to take command.
By the end of the third quarter, Collinsville had opened a 58-21 lead. Officials ran the game clock without stop in the fourth.
Anfirnee Wilkinson led Collinsville in the game with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Ronnie Midgett added 13. Also scoring for the Kahoks were Sean Davis with seven; Brett Langley and Cole Buehne with six each; Zack Flora with five; and Rickman and Tommy Maden each with four.
Midgett and Wilkinson both joined Rickman on the All-Tournament team.
Quinn Leahy led Pittsfield with 10 points and Tanner Ashburn had seven.
Lee said the Kahoks are playing better, especially since a second-place performance at their own Collinsville Holiday Classic during which they defeated top-seeded Althoff. But he's not necessarily counting the current winning streak, during which the Kahoks have won eight of nine games, as a true barometer for its place in a competitive conference.
The Kahoks have eight games left in the regular season, including seven against Southwestern Conference.
"We have played a little better, but we haven't played the same teams," Lee said. "We lost to some tough teams — we lost to Edwardsville, East St. Louis, Alton, O'Fallon — so we've got those teams again. We'll see how we do the second time around."
Rickman says he and his teammates are looking forward to another shot at the league leaders. They'll begin with O'Fallon Friday night.
"The only thing I look forward to is where am I supposed to be on the court and when's the next game. All this is behind me already," he said. "I'm just looking to the next game and what I have to do. We want to beat O'Fallon, beat Granite. That's what's next. We'll take it one game at a time."
Cahokia 54, Quincy-Notre Dame 44
Cahokia tournament-opening loss to Collisnville last Saturday decided the championship. Cahokia closed the tourney out with four wins, including a 54-44 win over Quincy-Notre Dame Saturday.
"It's good to come play against good competition," said Cahokia coach Darian Nash. "It's a good tune up for the playoffs and we get to see good coaching and good players and good talent."
The day started early for the Comanches. After a less-than-satisfying nine-point win over Marquette Friday, Nash put his team on the floor for a 6 a.m. workout.
The message was received.
Cahokia was ahead 26-13 at halftime and never looked back. The Comanches evened their season record at 10-10.
"We worked really hard this morning then came out and played pretty good," Nash said. "That's the thing, effort. If we can just have a little more effort, it'll take us a long way."
Makil Brown led Cahokia with a game-high 15 points. Also scoring for the Comaches were Montez Crumble Jr. with 11, DeVonte Williams Jr. with six, Jeremy Franklin with five, Jackorey Davis and Quantez Miller with four each, LaMaris George and Brendon Chism with three apiece, and Eugenen Gully Jr. with one.
Crumble represented Cahokia on the all-tournament team.
Ben Welper led Notre Dame with 10 points.