PIASA – Blake Marks knew that sinking a single free throw with no time remaining would give the East Alton-Wood River Oilers a regional basketball win Monday night.
So the 6-foot-1 junior guard made the first one of three and ended any drama.
Marks’ foul shot after time expired gave the Oilers a 47-46 victory over Carlinville in the opening game of the Class 2A Southwestern Boys' Regional. EA-WR, now 11-17, meets top-seeded Southwestern at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“I can’t say I’ve ever been in that situation before,” Marks said of his game-finishing free throw. He was fouled while taking a 3-pointer as the buzzer sound.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Marks was fouled or had his shot blocked, which would have forced an overtime. The officials ruled a foul.
“When they called the foul, I knew I was going to the line and I was really confident I was going to make a free throw,” said Marks, the team’s top scorer with 17 points.
EA-WR coach Kyle Duncan said, “It was a foul, but sometimes in those situations at the end of the game, they (officials) don’t call that. I think Blake got hit by the defender’s body more than anything else.
He added: “I’ve never seen a game end like that, but I’m glad it did because we didn’t want to go into overtime. Carlinville had some momentum going and all the confidence in the world.”
Carlinville closed at 5-20, including three losses to EA-WR. Cavaliers’ coach Alan Cooper was philosophical about the frantic finish. “They did what they needed to do,” he said of the Oilers, “and they got the call.”
The Oilers, ahead 27-19 at halftime, saw the Cavaliers cut into their lead during third quarter. Kinney Miles led the comeback charge with 13 of his game-best 18 points the quarter. Carlinville led 37-36 going into the final quarter.
“I thought we did a good job with our defense and Kinney got us going,” Cooper said. “He spurred us at the end and gave us a chance to win.”
Marks hit a trio of treys in the first quarter and scored 13 first-half points. Top gun Mike Stimac was limited to six points on 2-for-16 shooting, plus two free throws.
“Mike struggled tonight, but I can count on my hand how many times he has struggled in four years,” Duncan said of the 1,000-point career scorer.
Teammate Dillon Buck came to the rescue.
Buck, a 5-8 senior, scored 15 points, thanks to 6-for-9 shooting. He had one 3-pointer in that mix and converted 2 of 3 foul shots.
“That’s his career-high scoring game,” Duncan said. He really came through for us,”
Marks noted, “That was one of his best games. Dillon really stepped it up tonight.”
EA-WR survived, even though the Oilers made just 15 of 52 shots, including 5-for-25 the second half. Carlinville made only 19 of 50 shots. Adam Walton and Joeb Easterday both scored nine points to complement Myles’ big effort.
Duncan and Marks both said the Oilers will need to streamline their play against 20-6 Southwestern in their semifinal battle.
“We want to come out and play good defense, and not play sloppy basketball,” Marks said. “We need to put it all together.”
As for Duncan, he said, “We tend to get a little soft on defense when we get the lead and we can’t do that. We’re going to need to play one of our best defensive games of the season against Southwestern.”
Gillespie ousted Dupo, 74-53, in Monday’s second game and will meet second-seeded Roxana at 7 p.m. Thursday in another semifinal. Eli Fox scored 20 points to pace the Miners.
The regional championship game is set for 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to next week's EA-WR Sectional at Memorial Gymnasium.
CLASS 2A SOUTHWESTERN REGIONAL
EA-WR 47, CARLINVILLE 46
Carlinville 11 8 18 9 – 46
EA-WR 11 16 9 11 – 47
Carlinville (5-20) – Joeb Easterday 9, Kinney Myles 18, Joe Bates 2, Jake Hannig 1, Brad Jamieson 4, Conner McClain 3, Adam Walton 9. 2FG-17 3FG-2 FT-5 PF-19
EA-WR (12-17) – Mike Stimac 6, Dillon Buck 15, Blake Marks 17, Zach Butkovich 3, Cody Blacklock 2, Justin Englar 2, Nic Daily 2. 2FG-11 3FG-4 FT-12 PF-12