GOREVILLE — Cairo's boys basketball team didn't make 'em all at the free-throw line Friday night, but it converted the big ones to advance to the Class 1A Gallatin County Sectional.
Terrell Jones split a pair at the stripe with 7.1 seconds to go at Goreville High School, and the Pilots held on for a 74-71 victory over the host Blackcats to win the Goreville Regional. Jones made 6 of 10 at the line for the night and scored 12 points.
Cairo (15-17) got 15 points each from sophomore Isaiah Brown and junior Daurice Morse, and 14 from Riko Nelson to hold off a big Blackcats (19-14) rally in the final minute.
Down 70-63 with 44.8 seconds left, Logan Hankins made two 3-pointers and Luke Brown hit another to put the pressure on, but the Pilots were able to sink just enough at the free-throw line for the win.
"I'm really proud of 'em, because (Jones) is the only one that's really been battle-tested," Cairo coach Larry Wood said. "He's the only one that started last year. We knew the way that Todd (Tripp) coaches, that they wouldn't lay down and quit, and that they would fight us."
Briley Dunn's 20 points led Goreville, which trailed by 10 at the break and by 10 to start the fourth quarter. The Blackcats made just 8 of 21 at the line but nearly came all the way back with eight 3-pointers.
"I thought both teams played hard, but it came down to free throws," Tripp said. "We shot ourselves at the free-throw line, and there were times where even when they missed, they were able to get offensive rebounds and putbacks. It was a good game, I thought we battled. We just came up short."
Goreville only had three turnovers in the first half, but two of them led to the first 10-point lead of the game for either team.
Isaiah Brown and Daurice Morse scored back-to-back transition buckets to put the Pilots up 37-27 at the break. Logan Hankins' 3-pointer from the left corner pulled the Blackcats within four with 1:07 to go in the half, but Cairo ended the half on a 6-0 run. Alton Hervey, a 6-4 sophomore, converted in traffic for a 33-27 lead, and Brown and Morse followed with some picture-perfect passing to end the half.
Cairo had only two first-half turnovers and converted all seven of its free throws. The Pilots didn't have a single 3-pointer in the opening 16 minutes, but took a double-digit lead into the locker room.