BELLEVILLE — The annual boys basketball tournament hosted by Belleville East has had many names in recent years.
The 2013 tournament secured a sponsor last week and has been named the Chick-fil-A (*168*) Classic at Belleville East.
Of course, Belleville East, Belleville West and Althoff, mainstays during the tournament, will participate in the six-squad round-robin format, with East (14-2) wearing the tag of favorite.
But it is a strong year for Belleville basketball, with West (11-3) and Althoff (9-5) capable of beating anyone on a given night.
The Belleville teams comprise Pool A, with Pool B entries being dangerous Madison Prep of St. Louis (13-0), Oakville (7-4) and McCluer of St. Louis County (1-8) forming Pool B.
The tournament begins Tuesday and continues Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. There will be games at 6 and 7:30 p.m. each day until Saturday, when game will be at 5, 6:30 and 8 p.m.
Belleville East, ranked sixth in the Class 4A state poll, boosted its record to 7-0 in the Southwestern Conference with a dramatic come-from-behind 60-55 victory over visiting Granite City on Friday.
East will be difficult to defeat on its home floor. The Lancers, however, have had a tendency to believe they can turn on the afterburners at will, and it's almost cost them in some games, most recently against Granite City and Collinsville.
"That's something we're trying to deal with," first-year East coach Abel Schrader said. "We've changed practices, how we practice up. We're trying to be more game-like at the start of practice to make them more ready to play.
"It's some growing pains that we're still going through. We're certainly not invincible. We can get beat if we don't play well. ... We've just got to continue to work to try to get better. We've got to do a better job against these (different) defenses we're seeing."
Belleville West has reeled off seven wins in its last eight games, with the only loss coming Dec. 29 to Class 3A state power Cahokia in the Centralia Holiday Tournament.
The Maroons are 5-2 in the SWC, one game behind Edwardsville and two games back of Belleville East.
One of West's losses is a 74-55 decision to East.
"We've been playing very well lately," Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. "We're getting quality play from everyone, but more importantly, we're having someone different step up each night and have a big game for us."
Althoff nearly defeated South Seven Conference rival Centralia on the road Friday, falling 57-56. But the Crusaders bounced back with a strong home win Saturday, 62-57 over Gibault that ended a modest three-game losing skid.
The Crusaders boast plenty of depth and have yet to match their talent against East or West.
Madison Prep of St. Louis already owns tournament championships at Lebanon and Normandy (Mo.). The Bears took down Freeburg, Wesclin, Nashville and Madison to win the season-opening tournament at Lebanon, so they must be taken seriously.
Oakville, too, is a threat in nearly every game, although the Tigers are young with just three seniors on their roster.
McCluer's lone victory came against Hazelwood East. Six of the Comets' eight losses have been by 10 or fewer points, so they have displayed an ability to play with most teams.
Top players in the tournament are:
*University of Illinois recruit Malcolm Hill, a 6-foot-7 senior averaging 23.8 points and 6.3 rebounds, and juniors Darreon Reddick (13.8 points, 3.1 assists) and Cameron Hunter (10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds) of Belleville East.
*Seniors Nick Van Osdale (24.4 points, 33 3-pointers), a Lindenwood-St. Charles recruit, Markkies Goodwin (11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) and D.J. Owens (8.5 points) of Belleville West.
*Junior Kevin Renner (16.6 points) and freshmen Keenen Young (10.2 points) and Brendon Gooch (8.3 points) of Althoff.
* Seniors Kevin Baker (15.1 points, 7.3 assists), Martavian Payne (14.5 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Miles Nettles (11.3 points, 12.2 rebounds) of Madison Prep.
* Juniors Ervin Sarajlic (15.8 points) and slender 6-10 Austin Gillmann (11.5 points, 10 rebounds, 30 blocked shots).
*Junior Andrew Weaver (12.9 points) and seniors Shacquille Edwards (12.9 points) and Malik Ray (10.4 points).
Tuesday: Madison Prep vs. Oakville, 6 p.m.; Belleville East vs. Belleville West, 7:30.
Wednesday: Oakville vs. McCluer, 6 p.m.; Belleville East vs. Althoff, 7:30.
Friday: Madison Prep vs. McCluer, 6 p.m.; Althoff vs. Belleville West, 7:30.
Saturday: Pool A 3rd vs. Pool B 3rd, 5 p.m.; Pool A 2nd vs. Pool B 2nd, 6:30; Pool A 1st vs. Pool B 1st, 8.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.