O’Fallon senior Jalen Hodge was seemingly all over the court Friday at East St. Louis High School. And in the eyes of Panthers coach Brian Muniz, Hodge needed to be.
Hodge scored 35 points to offset the Flyers duo of Joe Reece and Terrance Hargrove Jr. as the Panthers went on for an 84-71 win in a Southwestern Conference game.
With Teron Bowman connecting on his first three 3-point shots and Hodge and Ronnie Anthony also scoring, O’Fallon (8-10, 3-4) opened the game with a 16-0 spurt — in the first four minutes of the game. With Hodge helping to hold off each East St. Louis run, O’Fallon never trailed as they rebounded from a tough loss to St. Louis Vianney earlier in the week.
“I don’t know if I felt any extra incentive tonight. I felt good and I was able to help us win the game,” Hodge said. “We’re just trying to get on track here and winning against a good East St. Louis team is a good beginning.”
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Anthony added 16 points for the Panthers — including 10 in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers hold off a late Flyers charge.
Trailing 58-35 entering the final period, East St. Louis erupted for 36 points and twice cut its deficit to 12 points. Reece, who led East St. Louis (8-9, 3-5) with 29 points, and Hargrove, who added 25, scored 31 of the Flyers’ points in the final eight minutes.
“They are like a volcano. You never know when they will erupt,” Muniz said. “We were able to make plays when they made their run at us late in the game. Teron (Bowman) was red-hot early. He wasn’t going to stop shooting until he missed one and he got us off to a good start.
“Jalen (Hodge) did a great job in every aspect of game. He scored, he rebounded, he passed and played good defense. For the most part I was pleased with our defense and our shot selection. We really worked on that (shot selection) after the Vianney game the other night,” Muniz said.
For new East St. Louis coach Mark Chambers and the Flyers, it was a another learning experience. Now 1-3 in four games after taking over the coaching duties, Chambers said the Flyers are still a team in transition.
“They (O’Fallon) were ready to play and they didn’t miss much in the first quarter,” Chambers said. “But I liked our effort. We kept battling and cut the lead to 12 in the fourth quarter. We’ll keep working and learn from this loss. The fourth quarter was something we can build on.”