Cahokia basketball coach Darian Nash acknowledged that it’s a lot to ask a roster of mostly juniors to win three straight after dropping a tournament opener.
But he enforces one rule to keep his young Comanches on track: no negativity.
The Comanches rallied from their day-one loss to Confluence Academy at the Centralia Holiday Tournament to win the consolation bracket championship 61-45 over O’Fallon.
“We took it on the nose against a really good team in Confluence, but we told the guys to keep their heads up and keep playing,” said Nash. “These are just juniors so, even when they lose, they have to know the experience they get now is valuable to their future.
“We play a lot of young guys, so I’m proud with what they’ve done here this week.”
It was a letdown for O’Fallon, which made it to the consolation championship by defeating Arlington (Tenn.) in a Saturday morning semifinal and rallying from 20-points down against Lausanne in the quarterfinal Friday.
Cahokia led O’Fallon from start to finish and opened a wide lead with a 16-3 run into the third quarter.
But Teron Bowman II, the hero of quarterfinal comeback, hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Jalen Hodge drained another to close the lead to 48-41. Cahokia closed on a 14-3 run to cinch the win.
The Comanches held a size advantage under the goal with 6-foot-7 junior Richard Robinson and played zone defense to keep the Panthers off balance. O’Fallon shot just 30.8 percent from the field and were just 5 of 22 from 3-point range.
“We were tired from having to play two games, so we thought we’d make them have to shoot over our length a little bit and take some time off the clock by playing zone,” Nash said. “The guys did it to perfection.”
Robinson scored a game-high 16 with six rebounds. Cortez Brown added 13, and Deavis Johnson had 12. O’Fallon was led by Bowman and Ronnie Anthony, who scored 11 each.
Cahokia dropped its first three games of the season, all in the Lincoln Tournament. They have since won seven of their past nine.
“It’s a really tough thing to come back after you lose the first game because you hope to go 4-0 and win a championship,” said Brown. “We regrouped and fixed our mistakes and played with heart. When we’re on it’s because we play with intensity, support each other from the bench and just no negativity.
“You have to stay positive.”