Cahokia and Althoff were both looking to harness some momentum Friday as their basketball seasons accelerated toward the regional.
The Crusaders owned it for most of the fourth quarter, closing an 11-point hole to two points with less than a minute left to play. But the Comanches closed the game hitting seven of nine free throws to clinch a 62-57 South Seven Conference win.
The win is the second in a row for Cahokia after losing its previous five. The Comanches (9-10) have six regular-season games left before the Class 3A regional.
“We’ve got to be smarter sometimes and stop making decisions that cost us,” Cahokia coach Darien Nash said. “But I’d rather get hot once regionals start instead of peaking early. I think we’ll be OK. I’m glad this young team got this win because it showed their character and shows me they still believe in what we’re trying to do.”
Althoff entered the game having lost six of its previous seven, the lone victory coming against Alton in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East. Time also is running short on the Crusaders, who face Pinckneyville, Illinois’ second-ranked Class 2A team, Saturday.
“Our problem is we keep playing good teams, and we’ll see another one tomorrow at the Pinckneyville Shootout,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “When we get to the playoffs, though, we’re not going to be surprised by anything because we’ve played all the best teams around.”
Shamon Hudson, a 6-foot-3 junior, led the scoring with a career-best 26 points. Junior Elijah Rice pitched added 11.
“Hudson was really physical down there tonight,” Nash said. “He did the dirty work for us and had a good game.”
Cahokia closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run to that put it ahead by 11 at the half. It’s a lead the Comanches maintained through the third. But freshman Ethyn Brown scored six points, including a 25-foot 3-pointer, during a 13-5 run to start the fourth.
It was another 3-pointer by Burke Watts, who stepped off the bench to score a team-high 15 for Althoff, that narrowed the Cahokia lead to 53-51 with three minutes left.
“We wanted to slow them down and make them take some time off the clock, but they kept making some shots,” Nash said. “For a stretch in there, we couldn’t stop them.”
Althoff (4-16) had the chance to tie with two minutes left but missed a layup after a midcourt steal and never got any closer.
Cahokia also will be in Pinckneyville on Saturday to face Webber Township.