Two of the Southwestern Conference's best teams and two of its best players met in a preview of the metro-east's toughest regional Friday.
It was East St. Louis and 6-foot-11 sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon that got the best of O'Fallon and its ace, Donovan Franklin.
Tilmon scored 19 points and was a force on the defensive end of the court in a 83-67 Flyers' win.
O'Fallon had closed the game to within seven points midway through the fourth quarter when Tilmon was forced to sit with foul trouble. Once he returned, the Flyers rallied for 11 unanswered points to put the game away.
"That's what happens when you have a 6-11 guy who can play, who can run, who can shoot, who can rebound," said East St. Louis interim coach Hank Harris. "He played a really good game."
East St. Louis didn't completely stop Franklin. The Panthers' senior still scored 27 points, including five 3-point shots and several drives through the lane. With 10 points off the bench, senior Caleb Wagner was the only other player to reach double figures for O'Fallon.
"Donovan had a good night offensively," said O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson. "He's big enough and strong enough to drive the ball, but otherwise we couldn't get much penetration."
East St. Louis improved to 17-6 overall and still undefeated in 12 conference games. O'Fallon fell to 17-8, 9-3 in the Southwestern Conference.
The teams are seeded Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in the Belleville West 4A Regional, which begins March 2.
"We've still got two games and it's important for us to not look too far ahead or think about being undefeated in the conference," Harris said. "We've still got a game against Granite City which has been playing really well lately."
O'Fallon fell behind by as many as 13 twice during the game, only to battle back.
Tilmon, who scored 15 points in the second half, put the Panthers down by 14 in the fourth quarter with a pair of dunks. But Parker Roustio stepped off the bench to nail a three-point basket and Franklin had a pair of short jumpers to make the score 67-60.
Tilmon didn't score again, but he had a block and an assist on the same play when he batted down a Darien McClain shot which was field by Tyrone Riley and taken to the basket. Riley scored on a baseline drive and Antony Johnson drained a his third 3-pointer of the game to spark the 11-0 run that put East St. Louis in command.
"We were not tough enough tonight," Gibson said. "They got a lot of second chances, killed us on the glass. We scored enough to win tonight, but 81 points is just too much for us to be giving up."
It was a basket-for-basket and a 17-15 first quarter lead for East St. Louis. Franklin had three 3s in the period to keep O'Fallon close.
But the Flyers kicked off the second with an 12-4 run sparked by junior guard Antonio Johnson who scored six points during the rally, including a three-point basket that put East Side up by 11.
Franklin, who had 13 points by the half, scored on a turnaround jumper and sophomore Alex Orr scored layups with each hand to close the O'Fallon deficit to 36-30.
East St. Louis set up the half's final shot, but Antony Johnson got anxious and drained a 3-point shot. It left enough time for O'Fallon to respond with McClain's only basket of the half just ahead of the buzzer to make it 39-32.
In addition to Tilmon's 19, the Flyers got 14 points from Antonio Johnson.
O'Fallon has games remaining with Edwardsville and at Alton before beginning regional play. East Side has games remaining with Granite City and at Collinsville.