O'FALLON — Coach Rick Gibson and his O'Fallon Panthers might have been the only people in the metro-east to believe they had a chance to upset Belleville East on Tuesday.
But that's exactly what the Panthers did, stunning the top-seeded Lancers 70-59 in overtime in the semifinals of the Class 4A O'Fallon Regional.
"I'm sure the Vegas odds weren't real high on us tonight," Gibson said. "But we believed. We knew we had played them close last time (67-61 on Feb. 8 in O'Fallon) and felt like, actually, when we played them last time, we let one get away."
Fourth-seeded O'Fallon (8-19) advanced to the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Panthers will play second-seeded Belleville West or third-seeded Collinsville, who will meet in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Sophomore Donovan Franklin led all scorers for O'Fallon with 25 points. Senior Charlie Harmon had 12 before fouling out in the fourth quarter, sophomore Parker Roustio had 11, senior Todd Porter had nine and sophomore Darien McClain had nine.
"It felt good to be out there with one of the top teams in the state and it just felt good to go against one of the best players in the country (East's Malcolm Hill)," Franklin said. "I think it's a good feeling for our team and me and our coaches. I'm glad we got that win."
East was outsored 13-2 in the four-minute overtime and hurt itself by going 0-for-6 from the free-throw line and 1-for-12 from the field.
"It goes beyond that," said first-year Lancers coach Abel Schrader, whose team is ranked fourth in the Class 4A state poll.
"(But) despite tonight, our kids played pretty well over the course of the season. Down the stretch, we hadn't played as well. We've got to be able to guard people a little bit better. We did some special things. Tonight just wasn't our night, and you give O'Fallon credit."
With O'Fallon trailing 57-56, Franklin had a chance to win the game from the free-throw line with 0.4 seconds to play in regulation. He missed the first shot, but hit the second to force overtime.
O'Fallon then scored the first eight points of overtime to take a 65-57 lead with 1:26 left. The Lancers' only points in the overtime came when Hill came up with a backcourt steal and layup to cut the Panthers' lead to 65-59 with 1:14 to play.
Franklin sealed the win by scoring the final five points, giving him nine in the overtime.
"We went hard in practice; we prepared for it," Franklin said. "We knew we had to key on Malcolm and some of their shooters, but we knew Malcolm was the biggest player we had to key in on. We got the 'W' as a team."
The 6-foot-7 Hill led the Lancers with 24 points. Just two other players scored for East --juniors Darreon Reddick with 18 and Cameron Hunter with 17. Reddick was 0-for-4 from the free-throw line in overtime, while Hunter was 0-for-2.
The Southwestern Conference champion Lancers, who never fully recovered from a sluggish start to the game, finished 24-4.
"We started off down 10 points from the jump and we had to come back," Hill said. "We had a lot of wins this season doing that, but this time we couldn't get it done.
"Coach always told us that every team was going to give us their best game, no matter who it is. We just weren't ready to play today. One thing we did was overlook them. We were looking too far ahead of ourselves. We weren't really focusing."
O'Fallon raced away to an 18-8 lead after one quarter, led 27-15 in the second quarter and maintained a 33-27 advantage at halftime.
East tied the game at 37 on a slick baseline move and basket by Reddick with 4:30 to play in the third quarter. The Lancers grabbed two leads in the quarter, 40-39 and 42-41, but McClain hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to make it 44-42.
O'Fallon scored five consecutive points in the fourth quarter to move ahead 52-47, but Hill's 3-pointer from the top of the key brought the Lancers within 52-51 with 4:54 to play.
With the game tied at 56, East called timeout with 50.3 seconds remaining. Hill drove the lane and was fouled by Porter with 6.1 seconds left. Hill missed the first free throw, but made the second to give the Lancers a 57-56 lead.
Franklin dribbled into the lane and was fouled by Hill with 0.4 seconds left. Franklin missed the first free throw, but connected on the second to send the game into overtime.
"I was real nervous," Franklin said. "My knees were buckling. I'm just glad I forgot about it and it went into overtime. I kept my composure and kept going."
Gibson said it was one of his most memorable wins at O'Fallon.
"We've played big games, but I don't know that we've had a bigger win --to knock off the team that was the Southwestern Conference champion and for us to be down at the bottom and not well-respected," said Gibson, whose team was 9-for-12 from the free-throw line in overtime.
"We're playing a bunch of young kids. They showed up tonight and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.