COLLINSVILLE — Coach Darin Lee emphasized defense this week and he liked how his Collinsville Kahoks responded Friday.
The Kahoks registered their staunchest defensive performance of the season and shut down O'Fallon 61-39, a victory that enabled them to avoid falling into the Southwestern Conference cellar.
"I don't think our defense has been very good, and we really went to work on it this week to try to get better," Lee said. "I thought we did a little better job. We have to continue to focus on that.
"It was a nice win for us. Everybody needs wins."
Senior Falando Wilkinson led all scorers with 28 points for Collinsville, which improved to 10-13 overall and 2-7 in the SWC. Junior Tanner Houck added nine points.
O'Fallon, which led 12-5 early in the second quarter, was led by 6-foot-5 sophomore Donovan Franklin's 11 points. Sophomore Parker Roustio chipped in with nine.
The Panthers (6-14, 1-8) fell apart in the second quarter when they were outscored 17-6 to fall behind 22-16 at halftime. Wilkinson was O'Fallon's nemesis as he scored 10 points in the period.
"We let him get going off turnovers," O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. "He got a couple of layups and that kind of sparked him. In the first quarter, maybe we weren't scoring (much), but we were at least taking care of the ball. A bad shot's better than a turnover. At least you've got a chance to get back on defense."
Wilkinson was 10-for-11 from the free-throw line, including 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter. Collinsville finished 17-for-21 from the line.
After the Panthers took their 12-5 lead on two free throws by Roustio with 7:51 to play in the second quarter, Kahoks senior Chris Mathes hit a 3-pointer and Wilkinson sank a baseline jumper to bring Collinsville within 12-10 at the 6:59 mark.
Wilkinson then went to the other baseline and connected on a jumper while being fouled by Franklin. Wilkinson converted the free throw to put the Kahoks on top to stay at 13-12 with 6:37 left.
Wilkinson, however, wasn't finished. His basket 30 seconds later pushed Collinsville's lead to 15-12 before Houck scored to extend the margin to 17-12 and close the 12-0 run.
O'Fallon answered with baskets by senior Todd Porter and Franklin to get within 17-16, but Wilkinson hit a free throw and a steal that led to a layup, and senior Briley Kellison closed the half with a pair of free throws to put the Kahoks ahead by six.
Wilkinson's outburst was a familiar sight for Lee.
"They really don't have a match for Falando," Lee said. "For us to play well ... That's a lot of pressure on a kid, but that's just the way he is. He's been a good player for us. He's really shot free throws well. Great scorers have to make free throws."
Collinsville steadily pulled away in the third quarter, scoring eight of the final 10 points in the period to build a 42-29 lead.
Sophomore Emondre Rickman's free throw in the waning moments of the game gave the Kahoks their winning margin of 22 points --their biggest lead.
Gibson was disappointed the Panthers couldn't build on their victory last week over Alton.
"We were feeling pretty good," he said. "We thought we had a pretty good week of practice. Today, it didn't translate. Today, we didn't shoot the ball well. I just felt like the hustle points, we didn't get. We got outhustled. They got the offensive rebounds. They got the loose balls.
"When you're on the road and you're battling a team and you're struggling, you've got to come up with the loose balls. You've got to come up with some offensive stickbacks, and we didn't."