BELLEVILLE — After trailing Granite City by 13 points in the third quarter Friday, Belleville East proved to be only wounded.
The Lancers turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter and it sparked them to a 60-55 victory over the upset-minded Warriors in a Southwestern Conference game.
Junior Darreon Reddick led East (14-2 overall, 7-0 SWC) with 24 points and senior Malcolm Hill hit a 3-pointer to put the Lancers ahead for good at 53-50, part of a 22-point performance. Senior Cameron Hunter had 10 points.
"We were having bad practices this week and we came in lackadaisical," said Reddick, who considered the Lancers fortunate to escape with a victory. "Coach (Abel Schrader) says when you practice bad, it's hard to turn it on. Tonight we got lucky and turned it on."
East trailed 39-26 when Granite City junior Quentin Jackson scored in the lane with 3:01 to play in the third quarter. But the Lancers forced seven turnovers by the Warriors (9-8, 2-5) in the fourth quarter that fueled their comeback.
"You've got to give East credit," said Granite City coach Steve Roustio, whose team was outscored 25-12 in the fourth quarter. "They turned the pressure up and we turned the ball over --and we haven't been turning the ball over.
"But we still played. We had guys play to the very end. Omar Walker put the team on his shoulders, and that was nice to see."
Walker, a 6-foot-3 senior, led all scorers with 27 points and was 15-for-19 from the free-throw line. Senior Devin Narvaez scored 10.
There were 52 fouls called, leading to 63 free throws. Granite City was 21-for-31 from the line; East was 19-for-32 and missed seven consecutive attempts during one dry spell in the second half. The Lancers, however, were 9-for-12 in the fourth quarter.
"It was a contact game, a physical game," Schrader said. "I guess we made (free throws) when they counted, but early on, we certainly didn't make them. We didn't make many things early on.
"I've got to give credit to Granite City for playing well and forcing us into that type of game. I also give credit to our guys in the fourth quarter. We came out and showed some resilience. We could have hung our head and felt sorry for ourselves and quit playing."
The Warriors threw every defense in the book at the Lancers, playing man-to-man, box-and-one on Hill and various types of zones.
Roustio's ploy worked for most of the game as Granite City led 11-8 after one quarter, 28-22 at halftime and 43-35 after three quarters.
Sophomore Darrell Miller then opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the left corner, putting the Warriors ahead 46-35.
That's when the Lancers woke up, reeling off an 18-4 run culminated by Hill's go-ahead basket. Reddick missed a shot in the lane, and after a scramble for possession, Hill wound up with the ball on the left wing and sank his key 3.
"Malcolm's a confident player, and he stepped up and made a big shot for us," said Schrader in what has become a familiar refrain when discussing the Illinois recruit. "When you're confident and you feel good about yourself and your game, you make shots like that. So far, he has for us."
Last Friday, Hill's 3-pointer with nine seconds to play in overtime beat Collinsville 52-51.
Both teams went deep into their benches, partly because of foul difficulty. Miller and senior George Wallace fouled out for the Warriors. Senior Tarrance Akins was disqualified for East.
Key players also were absent. Roustio said senior Perry Grimes has been dismissed from the Warriors because of disciplinary reasons. East was without seniors Khalil Smith-Traylor and James Cotton.
Schrader said Smith-Traylor is dealing with "some personal issues" and will rejoin the team "at some point in time." Cotton, a star football player, was making an official visit to Tennessee-Martin.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.