EAST ST. LOUIS After sitting out the debut of interim coach Hank Harris last week, heralded East St. Louis sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon made up for his absence in a big way on Friday in the fourth quarter of the Flyers game with the Edwardsville Tigers.
Ranked as one of the sophomores in the nation, the 6-foot-11 Tilmon combined with Karon Randolph for 18 points in the final period as East St. Louis remained undefeated in Southwestern Conference play with a come-from-behind 59-56 victory.
Holding the lead for much of the game, Edwardsville (13-8, 5-4) was able to slow the pace and the Flyers up-tempo offense which generated 96 points in a 96-66 win over Belleville East a week ago.
But tied at 33 after three quarters, both offenses went to work in the final eight minutes.
Edwardsville, led by the one-two punch of Mark Smith and Oliver Stephen led by as many as four points in the final period and 53-50 with under two minutes remaining following a pair of free throws by Stephen.
But Randolph hit two free throws and following a costly Tigers turnover on an inbounds play, Randolph tallied on a three-point play with 1:37 remaining to give East St. Louis (15-5, 10-0) a 55-53 lead.
Flyers guard Marquis Chairs then increased the Flyers lead to four points on a pair of free throws with a minute left. But Oliver, who finished the night sharing team scoring honors with Smith with 16 points apiece, made his fourth 3-pointer of the night to bring Edwrdsville to within 57-56 with 44 seconds left.
Chairs then hit a runner in the under 15 seconds left to give East St. Louis a 59-56 lead. Smith and Dan Marinko both missed potential game-tying 3s in the closing five seconds. Marinko put up the final one, which hit the back rim and bounced long as the final buzzer sounded.
“I guess you could say the game ended a few seconds to quickly for Edwardsville,’’ a smiling Harris said. “That is a very great basketball team we beat tonight. They rebound, they run their offense well, they shoot well and they are a well coached team.
“I’m proud of my team though, too. It helps to have the 6-11 player (Tilmon) inside, but we held it together well when we needed too.’’
Tilmon led East St. Louis with 15 points while Randolph added 12
But when Tigers 6-5 sophomore AJ Epensa was hit with his fifthfoul midway through the fourth quarter, the 6-11 Tilmon was left with more room to operate in the post.
“It’s tough to play against a player who is 6-11, but I thought we did a a good job on both ends of the court,’’ Ewdardsaville coach Mike Waldo said. “Offensviely, we did some good things and we had some players step up and play well. I thought both Dan Marinko and Mark Smith both had good games.
“The fourth quarter though we gave up too many offensive rebounds. They (East St. Louis) attacked the offensive boards hard in the fourth quarter.’’
The game was the second for Harris who took over the Flyers coaching duties on an interim basis last week when head coach Tony Young was placed on paid administrative leave while East St. Louis District 189 investigates an alleged locker room recording during which Young cursed liberally and at one point encouraged one of his players to hurt an opposing player.
Harris is an Edwardsville High School graduate.