Purple Pride was revived Friday night.
Third-seeded Collinsville sent a jolt through the metro-east by defeating top-seeded East St. Louis 58-50 in the championship game of the Class 4A Belleville West Regional.
It was the Kahoks’ first regional title since 2006, and it came at the expense of a team that won the Southwestern Conference championship with a 14-0 record.
Collinsville coach Darin Lee called it the biggest win in his six seasons as coach, although he stopped short of describing it as David beating Goliath.
“We’re a little better than that,” Lee said.
Few could argue after a game that saw Collinsville, which trailed 19-11 in the second quarter and 34-27 in the third quarter, make clutch play after clutch play in the fourth quarter.
Collinsville (20-12) got a game-high 23 points from senior Anfirnee Wilkinson, while sophomore Ronnie Midgett came off the bench and scored 12 and senior Nic Gonet had nine in a reserve role. Wilkinson, Midgett and Gonet combined for seven of the Kahoks’ eight 3-pointers.
The Kahoks finally put away the Flyers (20-7) by going 13-for-17 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Wilkinson was 8-for-9, with four of them coming after East Side cut a 52-42 deficit to 52-50 with 27 seconds to play.
“It’s a a great feeling,” said Wilkinson, who has 67 points in the last three games. “Nobody thought we were going to win. We were the underdogs. It’s great to come out and beat them. It was real nerve-wracking because we had held the lead for so long, and for them to come back ... We didn’t want to lose the game.
“We’re coming together as a team. Nobody wants the season to end.”
The Kahoks will play Alton in the Pekin Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Belleville East. The Redbirds won the Edwardsville Regional on Friday with a 44-27 victory over the host Tigers.
Alton swept Collinsville in the regular season, 61-53 and 50-42, but that hardly matters to the Kahoks after taking down O’Fallon and East Side in the regional, teams that also swept Collinsville.
“The old adage is it’s tough to beat a team three times,” Lee said. “Nobody gave us a chance to win the regional but us.”
Collinsville was stealth on defense, too. Junior Antonio Johnson (16 points), senior Tyrone Riley (13) and sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon (12) reached double figures for East St. Louis, but juniors Karon Randolph and Marquise Chairs were both scoreless and were a combined 0-for-17 from the field. Another starter, senior Tyshaun Stainback, was held to two points.
“When your top couple of scorers don’t score, that’s bad,” said interim East St. Louis coach Hank Harris, whose team shot 38 percent (21-for-55) from the field.
Harris said the difference was the Flyers’ inability to speed up the Kahoks, who limited East St. Louis’ transition baskets and allowed only a handful of layups.
“What happened was Collinsville made us play a halfcourt game, and they beat us in a halfcourt game,” Harris said. “We didn’t play our game. We didn’t run, we didn’t get after it offensively, we didn’t push the ball. We did the best we could with the situation at hand.
“The guys are hurt. They’re hurt big-time. But life goes on and you’ve got to get better for next year. That’s all it is.”
Collinsville trailed 11-10 in the first quarter, but suddenly found itself behind 19-11 on an 8-1 run by Flyers that featured six points by Tilmon, including a dunk on a runout.
The Kahoks recovered and pulled into a 24-24 tie at halftime as Gonet hit two 3-pointers, Midgett added another and senior Emondre Rickman had a monster jam off a miss by Midgett.
The 6-foot-8 Rickman played on the perimeter in the second quarter and the 6-10 Tilmon followed. That diminished the damage Tilmon could inflict on the inside.
“It was a big factor,” Harris said. “We didn’t rebound the ball well.”
Lee said the Kahoks hadn’t used their “flex” offense all season.
“We had to change our offense because of Tilmon. It’s just hard to score over him,” Lee said. “Our flex is not great because we hadn’t run it much. But we had to get him out of the paint. Had to. You can’t get a layup with him in there.”
The Flyers went ahead 34-27 on a jumper by senior Antony Johnson with 2:11 left in the third quarter, but Wilkinson answered with three 3-pointers, the last of which came with eight seconds to play and trimmed East St. Louis’ lead to 38-36.
Midgett opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to give Collinsville a 39-38 lead, but Tilmon scored to put the Flyers on top 40-39. The Kahoks, and their fans, started to believe something special was about to occur when Wethers had a putback and Wilkinson had a three-point play and a free throw that gave Collinsville a 45-40 lead with 3:42 to play.
After Tilmon scored, Midgett had a layup on a strong move to the basket, Gonet made two free throws and Wilkinson followed with two more to make it 51-42 with 1:13 left. Gonet made one of two free throws to make it 52-42 at the 1:02 mark.
That’s when things got interesting. The Kahoks committed two costly turnovers and missed three of four free throws, and the Flyers got withing 52-50 on two 3-pointers by Antonio Johnson and a rebound basket by Tilmon.
Wilkinson and Midgett then went 6-for-6 from the line in the final 26.2 seconds.
“We’ll keep pushing,” Midgett promised. “This is fun.”
Harris, who replaced Tony Young as coach in January, has not been hired for the 2015-16 season, although he said he would welcome the opportunity to come back.
“Absolutely,” Harris said. “I loved it. This is what I do. God is in control. I know that for a fact. We’ll see what happens.”