By Phil Knapper – Metro Independent Contributor
***updated to correct the Kahok free throw shooter with 7.8 seconds remaining in the game to Nic Gonet***
BELLEVILLE — The Collinsville Kahoks led for just 66 seconds Tuesday night in the Class 4A regional at Belleville West — but, man, were they the most important 66 ticks of the game.
Down by as any as 13 points in the second half to the home standing Maroons, Collinsville turned the game completely around to win 45-43.
“I don’t know how we did it, really,” Collinsville coach Darin Lee confessed just minutes after the game. “We made some huge baskets and got some turnovers and were able to do it.”
The comeback started with one of those huge baskets — a 3-pointer from Nic Gonet that the junior sharpshooter turned into a 4-point play, after being fouled on the shot.
“That was so big,” Lee said.
The play cut the West lead to 30-21, but West led 37-27 after three quarters.
The Maroons tried to shorten the game with a ball-control offense, but it played right into the hands of the Kahoks, who outscored West 18-6 over the final eight minutes to steal the win.
“We always thought we were in the game,” Lee said. “Belleville West has a good team, but sometimes, in the postseason, a team will start to play not to lose and I think they did a little of that.
“I’ve been guilty of that, too,” he said. “We were just fortunate enough to make some things happen.”
The Kahoks began the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to pull within 37-35 on an Anfirnee Wilkinson steal and hoop with 3:07 left.
Eugene Jones and Steven Roberts both went 2 for 2 at the line to bump West’s lead to 41-38 with 2:40 left, but Collinsville closed the game out strong on both ends of the floor.
Wilkinson scored with 2:16 left and Jacob Shaffer scored with 1:06 left to give the Kahoks their first lead of the game, 42-41.
Gonet then hit 3 of 4 at the line to make the final 45-43.
“We were doing good at the line, but we missed 3 of our last 4,” Lee said. “We had a chance to salt it away, but we didn’t.”
Gonet’s last free throw came with 7.8 ticks left and Roberts made a bid for overtime when he slithered into the lane for a short shot attempt. But, as he did three other times in the fourth quarter, Emondre Rickman swatted the shot away and a desperation shot was no good, preserving the 45-43 win.
“He had some big blocks at big times,” Lee said of Rickman.
West led 9-7 after one period and took a 24-15 lead into halftime.
“The zone gave us some trouble,” Lee said. “We practiced against it, but they did a good job and we missed some shots.”
Collinsville will be right back at it Wednesday night when it faces the Regional’s top seed, O’Fallon, at 6 p.m. in the semifinals.
“We are going to come ready to play,” Lee said.