Collinsville gambled and paid the price Tuesday.
The Kahoks employed a 2-3 zone for most of their Class 4A Pekin Sectional semifinal against Alton at Belleville East High School and the Redbirds sank nine 3-pointers in a 67-58 win.
Alton (27-4), which defeated Collinsville for the third time, went ahead for good when senior Darrius Edwards hit the first of his four 3-pointers with 6:08 to play in the first quarter. Senior LaVonte Hobbs added three 3-pointers and senior Carlos Anderson had two.
“They gave us a lot of open looks and we knocked them down. We came out hot,” said Edwards, whose 16 points led the Redbirds’ balanced attack.”
Edwards said he and his teammates were loose from the opening tip.
“We had a lot of fun in the locker room before the game, and that got us going,” he said, describing the fun as “just joking around.”
“(We were) not really worried about this being a big game,” Edwards said. “(We wanted to) just treat it like any other game and don’t think about how big it us. Just go out and have fun.”
Anderson and 6-foot-7 senior Bryan Hudson also reached double figures with 14 points apiece for Alton, which will play Normal (30-1) in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Pekin High. The Ironmen outlasted Rock Island 58-51 in the other semifinal Tuesday.
“We shot it fairly well tonight, all things considered,” Alton coach Eric Smith said, crediting Hobbs for his second-half 3-pointers in a reserve capacity. “He’s had one or two games where he’s done this, but really nothing on a stage like tonight. He’s a confident shooter. He stepped in with some confidence and did his job.”
Emondre Rickman, a 6-8 senior headed for Indiana State, led all scorers with a career-high 25 points on 11-for-15 shooting for the Kahoks, who finished 20-13. Senior Anfirnee Wilkinson had 18 points, but no other Collinsville player cracked double figures.
Kahoks coach Darin Lee said leaving Edwards open to shoot 3-pointers proved to be a mistake. Edwards swished three 3s in the first quarter as Alton built a 16-11 lead.
“They shot it well,” he said. “In retrospect, I probably would have guarded (No.) 0 early,” said Lee, who opted for a box-and-one on Edwards later in the game. “We wanted to see if they could make 3s. (Nine) is a lot. When you’re playing a team that talented, you have to pick your poison, pick your spots. We picked to see whether their guys would make 3s, and they did. They came out and shot the basketball well.”
Alton maintained a five-point lead at halftime (27-22) and stretch the margin to 35-27 on a driving layup by sophomore Maurice Edwards with 3:35 to play in the third quarter.
Collinsville, which rallied past East St. Louis 58-50 to win the Belleville West Regional on Friday, shaved its deficit to 35-33 on a basket by Rickman with 1:30 left in the third.
But Hobbs fueled a 16-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 41-33. Rickman answered with a basket at the end of the quarter to make it 41-35, but Hobbs hit another 3 with 6:17 to play in the game, giving Alton a 44-35 lead.
Darrius Edwards followed with a three-point play and a 3-pointer, and suddenly the Redbirds led 51-35 with 4:52 left in the game. Collinsville got within 65-56 on Wilkinson’s 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining, and a basket by Rickman made it 65-58 with 18 seconds to play, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“This, so far, is the best I’ve played,” said Hobbs. “I gave some good minutes tonight to the team. That’s what we needed. We’ve got different people stepping up, and tonight was my night. My team told me to shoot the ball every time I catch it. “
Rickman was too much in the post for Hudson, but Smith didn’t mind seeing Rickman erupt as long as other Collinsville players were subdued. Sophomore Ronnie Midgett and senior Brett Langley were held to six points apiece, while senior Harrison Wethers scored just three. Seniors Sean Davis and Nic Gonet were scoreless.
“There’s a reason (Rickman) is going where he is next year,” Smith said. “He’s about as athletic a kid at that size as you’re going to fine. He did some really nice stuff for them tonight. We just kind of made the decision that we were going to let Bryan play him one-on-one and if he ends up with 30, he ends up with 30.”
Alton struggled from the free throw line, going 10-for-20. But the Redbirds were 24-for-52 from the field (46 percent). Collinsville shot 49 percent (23-for-47).
“When we went man, we just couldn’t keep them in front of us,” Lee said. “They’re pretty quick. They’re a hard team to cover. There’s a lot of good players out there. They’ve won 27 games. They’re a pretty good basketball team to win 27 games in our league (Southwestern Conference).”