Jarion Norris was a wrecking ball Wednesday night.
The Cahokia senior scored 17 in the first half and finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Comanches knocked off Mater Dei 69-56 in the semifinals of the IHSA Class 3A Waterloo Regional.
“That post presence was a big key tonight,” Cahokia coach Darian Nash said. “He stepped out and hit some shots, too. When he is focused he is hard to stop.
“He is a beast, there is no other way to look at it. If he is focused and ready to play he is unstoppable. He gets that inside-outside going and he gets that swagger.”
Norris finished the game 11-for-12 from the field.
“We tried a lot of different things with him,” Mater Dei coach Brian Perkes said. “We tried to run a number of people at him in all kinds of situations, we went straight man, we went zone. He missed one shot tonight, a three-pointer. He was incredible.”
Cahokia needed the wreckage of Norris’ big swings. Senior Khyree Beckley drained a long three-pointer as the second quarter expired to give Cahokia a 13-point lead, 36-23, at the break. But the Knights started to build resistance, scoring the first seven points of the second half.
“Our kids have battled all year,” Mater Dei coach Brian Perkes said. “You certainly can’t fault our effort because our kids play hard. In thought we played as hard as we could have again tonight.”
Junior Michael Holmes hit a pair of free throws and Norris scored twice to end Mater Dei’s flurry.
“Meter Dei can shoot,” Nash said. “Basketball is a game of runs and we had to just withstand their run and we did. They are great shooters and you can’t stop them all night, so we just tried to contain them.
“We hit our free throws tonight and we executed pretty well. We went through a stretch where we had a couple of turnovers, but I am really proud of the guys. They played hard and played as a team.”
Mater Dei finished its season 19-10.
Cahokia improved to 21-9 ahead of Friday’s regional final against Belleville Althoff, which beat the host Bulldogs in the early game Wednesday.
“It is going to be a dogfight,” Nash said. “I think some of my guys got lax late in this one because we were worried about (Althoff), but it is like I tell them – you kill a gnat with a sledgehammer. We had to finish this business tonight.
“We will be prepared. I think my guys will be up for those guys after they beat us this year. We owe them a favor.”