WEST FRANKFORT — Damarius Taylor put on a show Wednesday night in the second round of the West Frankfort Mid-Winter Classic.
The Cairo senior racked up 42 points to lead the Pilots to a convincing 83-69 victory over Herrin. Cairo (14-3) defeated Marion on Saturday and improved to 2-0 at the event with their win over the Tigers.
Whether Taylor was launching shots from downtown or slithering between defenders for an acrobatic shot in the paint, Herrin simply couldn’t stop the 6-foot-2 guard.
“I was feeling it, but my teammates helped me get into a rhythm,” Taylor said. “My teammates kept telling me to keep shooting it. This is great to be a part of this team, and it’s my senior year, and we’ve been working. I was in my zone tonight.”
Taylor already had 20 points at halftime, and the Pilots held a 41-34 lead at the intermission. Taylor came out of the locker room and promptly scored seven quick points. That gave Cairo an 11-point advantage.
But Herrin wouldn’t go away quietly. Bronson Nesler started an 8-0 run for the Tigers with a 3-pointer, and Drew Ringel finished it with a triple. Herrin trailed just 50-47 with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
Taylor wound up with 14 points in the third quarter alone, and he finished the period with a 3-pointer and a bucket in transition.
Brandon Anthony sank two free throws to cap off a 6-0 streak for Herrin early in the fourth quarter, which sliced the Tiger deficit to just five. But the Pilots were simply too much.
“They are unselfish, and I’ve said all along that they are a good group of kids,” said Cairo coach Larry Wood. “Sometimes we’re supposed to say that kind of stuff as coaches, but in this case, it is really true.”
Cairo drained eight shots from beyond the arc. When they weren’t hitting triples, the Pilot post players were grabbing rebounds for easy stick-backs.
“In most cases, we’re smaller than other teams,” Wood said. “We’ve got to work together and get on the boards. A lot of times, winning on the boards helps you win the game.”
Malachi Brown (11 points) and Alton Hervey (six points) scored the majority of their points in the paint.
But this game belonged to Taylor, who scored his 40th point with 3:45 still on the clock in the fourth quarter. That bucket gave the Pilots a 14-point advantage.
“Yes, he is,” Wood said when asked if Taylor is unstoppable when he’s on. “He can create his own shot, and he has hit some big ones for us. I’m just blessed to have him on the team.”
Ringel scored 23 points for Herrin, Nesler added 11, and Cameron Vaughn had 10. The Tigers are 0-1 in the tournament and return to action at 8:30 p.m. on Friday against Marion.
The Pilots take on Carterville at 8:30 p.m. today.