By Mark Jurgena
COLLINSVILLE — It was total domination.
And very few people were there to see it.
But the players on the Collinsville boys basketball team were not phased by it.
On Jan. 27, a scant 16 hours after playing in front of a big crowd on their home floor during their SWC win over Belleville West, the Kahoks hosted Florissant, Mo. (McCluer Senior) before an almost empty Fletcher Gym.
No bother, they played with great energy for 32 minutes as they beat their Missouri foe 60-20 to push their record to 23-3 on the year.
“I take it on myself to get my teammates hyped and ready for the game,” said 6-9 postman Zach Chambers. “When I look around we like to be playful during warmups when there’s not a lot of people here and get ourselves pumped up.”
The Kahoks pushed the Comets from the start thanks to a 3-pointer by Jamorie Wysinger, 21 seconds into the contest then proceeded to harass the McCluer offense from there.
Steals by Wysinger and Tyree Brister led to buckets while a diving hustling play from Stanley Carnahan led to a pileup on the floor kept the energy level going.
It was all part of a change in mentality by the squad.
After they lost a 14-point lead to Highland on Jan. 23, they took a new approach.
“We have to come in with the mentality that we have to play every game like it’s a conference game,” said Chambers who dropped in eight points with three boards and two blocks. “That’s our new mentality because some of those games we let slip because we weren’t in the right mindset. But now I feel like we are back on the right track.”
Fellow senior Nick Horras who tossed in a game-high 16 points agreed.
“We know what it takes to get up now,” he said. “We’ve had some bad losses. We know what it’s like to lose now and we don’t like that feeling. So we’re coming into every game with the mentality that we want to win.”
Collinsville led 13-4 after one quarter with this refocused approach and it paid dividends in a big way in the second stanza.
They ripped off an 18-0 run while holding McCluer without a field goal for a total of 10 minutes, and 29 seconds before the Comets could end their scoring drought with a bucket just before the halftime buzzer sounded.
Five Kahoks got in on the scoring fun during the spree led by Horras with five, Chambers and Brister with four each while Wysinger hit another three. For good measure, Solomon Talbott hammered a dunk.
The Comets shot only 11 percent in the opening half making 2-of-18 shots.
“We don’t get very complicated defensively,” said CHS coach Darin Lee. “We work our shell drill to stay between your man and the basket, switch screens on the ball and get over away screens. We’ve got some size it’s hard to drive in there and score. If they don’t shoot it well from the outside, sometimes we can really make it tough.
“We played well, we guarded well and they didn’t have anywhere to go for a basket,”
But playing defense wasn’t the only thing CHS was focused on.
“We’re just working on a couple of things, trying not to turn it over and defensive rebounding,” added Lee.
While the Kahoks had a few too many turnovers with 10 they won the rebounding battle 37-28 including grabbing 10 more on the defensive glass than McCluer.
They were paced by Carnahan’s 10 rebounds including eight defensively. Against West, he had 11 with seven of them defensive.
“He had a great rebounding night that was important,” Lee said when discussing the game against West. “He’s been a little injured, missed a few games but he’s back playing fully healthy.”
Wysinger added 15 points with two steals while Brister also had a pair of steals. Chase Reynolds had a team-high three assists.
Collinsville never trailed and used a big fourth quarter to score an important SWC win on Jan. 26 over Belleville West 62-43.
The win pushed the Kahoks to 6-2 in SWC play while the Maroons dropped to 1-7 in loop action. CHS hosts a key SWC game with East St. Louis on Friday night. The Flyers sit at 4-2 entering this week.
In the fourth, CHS outscored the Maroons 20-8. But it was the 12-0 spree to end the game that put West away.
That onslaught was highlighted by two dunks from Chambers, one from Wysinger and four big rebounds by Brister, a 5-6 sophomore.
“We took care of the basketball and didn’t turn it over,” said Lee about that final quarter. “That was the main thing, we had no turnovers and we rebounded the basketball at the other end. Jamorie knocked down a three and we beat their press to get some easy ones on the other end.”
Collinsville also went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in that span with two each from Wysinger and Brister while Chambers tossed in one.
While CHS led the whole game, they could never put the Maroons away until the end. CHS led 12-8 after one and 26-18 at the half.
The Kahoks needed two late third quarter free throws by Wysinger to go up 42-35 after three.
“Nick shot it well early and Jamorie hit a few late,” Lee said. “Zach is a factor against West because they don’t have anybody who can guard him that starts.”
That senior trio of Horras, Wysinger and Chambers had 18, 15 and 17 points respectively. Horras and Reynolds added four assists each.
Two late turnovers in overtime led to breakaway layups and gave Highland a 62-57 win over Collinsville in Fletcher Gym on Jan. 23.
It was the second consecutive year the Bulldogs beat CHS in OT.
The teams went back and forth early with five lead changes and four ties in the opening quarter before Collinsville took the lead until midway through the fourth quarter.
CHS shot 65 percent from the floor in the opening half on 13-of-20 shooting and led by as much as 14 points at 30-16 with 2:38 to play in the second quarter but could not hold on to the lead.
In the fourth, Highland grabbed the lead 43-42 thanks to a three from Jake Ottensmeier who knocked down a game-high 26 points.
The Dogs increased their lead to four with another Ottensmeier three but Brister had the answer for the Kahoks.
He hit a conventional three-point play with 2:51 left then followed with a layup to give CHS the lead 47-46.
Highland regained a four point lead but Wysinger hit three free throws with 21.4 seconds to play to cut it to one.
After a free throw by Trey Koishor, Horras was fouled as he tied the game at 52-all with 11 seconds to play. He sank the free throw to put the Kahoks up one but Ottensmeier would send the game to OT with 4.3 seconds to play by burying a free throw.
Wysinger had a double-double with 21 points an 10 rebounds. He also hit four 3-pointers.