The East St. Louis Flyers will rely heavily this season on senior Joe Reese and junior Terrence Hargrove Jr.
But Tuesday was time for junior Traeveion Jones to shine. Jones hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left to lift the Flyers to a 65-64 victory over Collinsville in a Southwestern Conference barn-burner.
Jones, who did not start, finished with 16 points and made seven of his eight free throws. His game-clinching shot was the Flyers’ ninth 3-pointer of the game.
“I just felt like I should take the shot,” said Jones, who was open above the key. “It was a big shot. We were down, so I had to man up for my team and do it for my brothers.”
It was the fourth victory in five games for East Side, which is 2-0 in the SWC. Collinsville, which led by four with 1:37 to play, slipped to 4-3 and 0-2.
Reece, a transfer from Vashon who has signed with Old Dominion, had 16 of his 20 points in the first half before being plagued by foul trouble. Hargrove finished with 10 points.
Jones also had a key steal that led to a layup that made it 62-62 with 32 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Collinsville junior Marshall Harrison hit a tough runner along the baseline with 13 seconds left. That set up Jones’ clutch shot.
“Tra is a solid basketball player. He’s so poised,” first-year Flyers coach Fernando Stevenson said. “He’s a junior, but he plays way beyond those years. I looked in his eyes during that timeout and he gave me a head nod. He said to me, ‘Coach, we’re going for the win. No ties.’ I liked that, and he did it for us.”
Stevenson said he was certain Jones would come through.
“I got a good look at it from (near) the baseline,” Stevenson said. “When he let it go, I knew it had a chance. I could have lived with the result either way because I like that kid. He’s a very special player. Very underrated, very coachable.”
“Game ball to Traeveion Jones.”
Junior Zane Baker’s potential game-winner from half-court was no good as time expired.
East Side won despite committing 22 turnovers — 11 each half. Collinsville had 18 miscues of its own and lost despite placing five players in double figures and making 13 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Harrison led the Kahoks with 15 points, followed by sophomore Ray’Sean Taylor with 14, senior Braeden Lemp with 13, and sophomores Keydrian Jones and Aaron Molton with 10 apiece. Baker finished with two points and was the only bench player to score.
“There’s not too many teams in the area starting three sophomores like we did tonight,” Collinsville coach Darin Lee said. “Our guys are competitors. They definitely have a lot of confidence in what we can do as a team. They did believe we could win the game. I don’t think you have a chance if you don’t believe that.”
Jones and Molton, both of whom are big and stand 6-foot-5, were on the floor together for the first time this season and were an integral part of the Kahoks’ two-three zone that forced the Flyers to search for points from long range.
East Side’s nine 3-pointers came on 21 attempts.
“That’s a lot of 3s,” Lee said. “We dared them to take a couple of those 3s. We were trying to slow down Reece and Hargrove. We held those guys to 30 combined, and that’s hard to do.
“But how many guys come off the bench and get 16 (like Jones)? We’ve got to live with that (final shot). We were up two. I think you take your chances with that one. ... It’s a tough one.”
Collinsville led 22-19 after one quarter, 32-30 at halftime and 44-42 after three quarters. The teams were not separated by more than three points in the fourth quarter until Lemp made two free throws to make it 62-58 at the 1:37 mark.
“Collinsville is much improved, and those kids are hurting,” Stevenson said. “You hate to play games like this when somebody has to lose, but I prefer it be the other team instead of us.”