It wasn’t always smooth sailing Friday night, but the East St. Louis Flyers completed a perfect season in the Southwestern Conference.
Senior Tyrone Riley scored 17 points, junior Karon Randolph had 16 and junior Marquise Chairs had 15 as the Flyers defeated Collinsville 80-69 in the league finale for both teams.
East Side (19-6, 14-0) moved ahead for good in the first quarter, then held off two second-half comeback attempts by the Kahoks (18-12, 7-7).
“Those guys stayed around and hung in that ballgame,” East St. Louis interim coach Hank Harris said of the Kahoks. “It was a tough ballgame. We just persevered and kept on going, and we hit our free throws. It was a big, big win here in Collinsville. It’s a great feeling for those guys to be champions and undefeated (in the conference) in the season.”
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The Flyers maintained control in the fourth quarter as Randolph and junior Marquis Chairs combined to make 13 free throws. Overall, East Side was 19-for-25 from the line.
Six other players scored for East Side, which was jump-started by senior Antony Johnson’s three consecutive 3-pointers in the first quarter.
“He certainly came off the bench and hurt us,” Collinsville coach Darin Lee said. “We knew he could shoot it; we just didn’t find him in the zone. He moved around and he dug a little hole for us. After he hit those 3s, they didn’t hit a lot of 3s. We got a little extended defensively.”
That helped create room under the basket for the 6-foot-5 Riley, who was 7-for-8 from the field. Riley has scored 60 points in the Flyers’ last three games.
Riley’s production in the paint against Collinsville helped negate a subpar performance by 6-11 sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon, limited seven points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
“He had to play a little timid later on because he couldn’t do what he really wanted to do,” Harris said. “He tried to stay in the game as long as he could.”
Collinsville broke out to a 4-1 lead, but the momentum didn’t last. The Flyers went ahead to stay on Riley’s basket that made it 5-4 with 5:42 to play in the first quarter.
East Side led 20-12 after one and 43-30 at halftime. The Kahoks got within 51-46 on a dunk by 6-8 senior Emondre Rickman with 1:45 to play in the third quarter, but the Flyers re-established themselves with a 13-4 run that gave them a 64-50 lead with 5:24 left in the game.
Collinsville came back again, however, and trailed just 64-58 after a free throw by Rickman with 3:22 remaining. The Flyers closed the door with 11 free throws in the final 2:06.
“We just never could quite close the gap enough,” Lee said. “We just dug ourselves too big of a hole, and they’re a good basketball team. Our kids competed. I was proud of that.
“They’ve just got a lot of weapons. They’re a tough team to contend with.”
Senior Anfirnee Wilkinson scored a game-high 21 points for the Kahoks, while sophomore Ronnie Midgett had 19 and Rickman had 11. All of Rickman’s baskets were dunks.
The teams combined for 13 3-pointers, with Collinsville making eight. Midgett led the attack from beyond the arc with three. Wilkinson and senior Brett Langley had two apiece.