CAHOKIA -- What started out as a promising night turned into heartbreak for the Marion Wildcats on Friday night in Cahokia.
Elijah Rice's step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted the Comanches to a 42-39 win over Marion in South Seven Conference play. The lead was the first one for Cahokia since it scored the first five points of the game. It was also Rice's first 3-pointer of the game.
"He steps up and makes a contested three," said Marion coach Gus Gillespie. "That's a low percentage shot for a kid that hadn't made many of those all night. Those are tough to swallow."
The Wildcats had a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter from the foul line, but made just three of 10 second-half free throws including going just 2-for-7 in the final frame.
"Free throws," said Gillespie. "If I knew the answer to that I wouldn't be coaching high school basketball at Marion. That's the question that coaches have been asking themselves for years."
After a slow start, the Wildcats controlled most of the first half. Cahokia scored the game's first five points, but Marion used an eight-minute stretch of the first and second quarters to score 15-straight points and take a 15-5 lead early in the second period.
Marion kept the momentum into halftime when Cole Schafer's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Wildcats a 26-15 lead at intermission.
But Cahokia slowly chipped away, cutting the lead to 34-30 by the end of the third period. The Wildcats scored just 13 second-half points.
Jaden Lacy led Marion with 15 points, 13 coming in the first half. The Wildcats also got 11 from Justin Saddoris.
Rice finished with a team-high 15 for Cahokia while Richard Robinson added 12 for the Comanches.
Marion plays a non-conference game Saturday afternoon, taking on Mt. Carmel in the Rich Herrin Classic shootout in Benton. The game has a 5:30 p.m. tip time.