Boys Basketball

O’Fallon battles state-ranked Normal West to the wire

O’Fallon’s Jalen Hodge (right) has given a verbal commitment to play at Louisiana-Monroe.
O’Fallon’s Jalen Hodge (right) has given a verbal commitment to play at Louisiana-Monroe. jim@jjsphotographyplus.com

Less than 24 hours removed from a 30-point loss to Southwestern Conference rival Belleville West, the O’Fallon Panthers played like a different team Saturday at the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout.

Junior Francis Okoro scored 24 points — including a 3-point play in the final 12 seconds — as Normal West defeated O’Fallon 61-59 to open the second day of the fourth annual event at the Panther Dome.

Trailing by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter, O’Fallon (9-13) rallied against the Wildcats behind the play of guards Jalen Hodge and Teron Bowman II. Sparking the Panthers offense, Hodge and Bowman combined for six 3-point field goals and 30 points in the second half.

Hodge, who received his first Division I scholarship offer from Louisiana-Monroe earlier this week, connected on 3-point jumpers 12 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter. And when Bowman made an off-balanced 3-point shot with 14.7 seconds remaining, O’Fallon was within one, 58-57.

Following a timeout, Okoro took a long inbound pass just past midcourt and was fouled while taking the ball to the basket. Okoro completed the play with a dunk as O’Fallon coach Brian Muniz disputed the basket, arguing it should have been a foul on the floor. Okoro made the free throw to complete the 3-point play, which gave the Wildcats a 61-57 lead.

“Our defender had his hands wrapped around him (Okoro) way before he made the shot. There wasn’t any way that basket should have counted,” Muniz said after the game.

The loss, although disappointing, didn’t diminish a superb effort by the Panthers, who took the state’s seventh-ranked Class 4A team down to the wire.

Normal West (18-5), getting a pair of 3-pointers each from guards Sean Cupples and Nate Duckworth, as well as nine points and seven rebounds from the 6-foot-10 Okoro, built a 29-20 lead at halftime.

That lead grew to 39-26 early in the second half before Bowman and Hodge began to find the range.

“We knew about Hodge. What we didn’t know was that No. 3 (Bowman) was such a good shooter,” Normal West coach Brian Cupples said. “We played well early and were able to to get a nice lead. Then we made enough plays down the stretch to win the game.”

Okoro led the Wildcats with 13 rebounds in addition to his 24 points, while Hodge paced O’Fallon with 27 points. Bowman added 19 points.

“I’m pleased at how we came out and played in the second half. I didn’t think we came out very well early, but we hit some shots in the third quarter and got a little confidence,” Muniz said. “Hopefully we can build on this and take it down the rest of the season.”

Springfield Lanphier 62, Bolingbrook 56

Balance was the deciding factor for the Lions (17-2), who got at least seven points from six players, including 14 from junior Karl Wright and 12 from senior James Jones. Lanphier amassed 21 points off second chances, outrebounding Bolingbrook 43-33.

The Raiders (16-4) got 21 points apiece from juniors Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran.

Bolingbrook had 20 turnovers.

Chicago Curie 79, Chaminade 71

In a tight game from start to finish, the Condors (19-3) survived as junior DaJuan Gordon had 22 points and eight rebounds. Three other players reached double figures, including senior Maurice Commander, who had 14 points.

The Red Devils (16-3), playing without senior and North Carolina State recruit Jericole Hellems, were paced by junior Keyyaun Batchman’s 21 points. Senior Henry Gladson had 12 points and a game-best 14 rebounds.

Curie’s bench outscored Chaminade 45-6, and the Condors scored 40 points in the paint.

Hellems was ejected from the Red Devils’ game Friday against St. Louis University High, making him ineligible to play against Curie.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean

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