COLLINSVILLE — Austin Cox continued to emerge as one of the best players in the Southwestern Conference on Thursday.
Cox, a 6-foot-3 senior at Belleville East, had 22 points and 12 rebounds as the Lancers outlasted University City 71-60 in the first round of the Collinsville-Schnucks Holiday Classic.
Fourth-seeded East, which improved to 6-3, will play Oakville (2-2) in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Friday.
"Austin has been very good for us," Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. "To be honest with you, we need him to be good for us. We need him to be aggressive offensively. He has the ability to get above everyone else. And when he wants to, he can crash the glass offensively and get tip-ins for us."
Cox was 9-for-16 from the field and also had four assists.
"That was a big game," Schrader said. "He's very athletic, and actually he can hit a 15-, 17-footer, too, from the outside. We have to continue to have him play well for us. He's been the one guy out of our (top) four or five who's been pretty consistent."
Senior Darreon Reddick chipped in with 17 points and five assists for the Lancers, while senior Cameron Hunter had 13 points and seven rebounds. Reddick was 11-for-12 on free throws.
East outrebounded the equally athletic Lions 41-26, but was unable to pull away until late in the fourth quarter.
"They were a pretty athletic team," Cox said. "Overall, our offense was really jelling more than it has been lately, but our defensive side wasn't doing too well. We were giving up a lot of rebounds and second chances. They just weren't hitting shots."
University City (3-4) shot 41 percent (23-for-56) from the field and failed on several occasions to capitalize from close range.
The Lancers, who also had difficulty at times in the paint, still managed to shoot 48 percent (23-for-48).
"My game, personally, I just ran the floor hard," Cox said. "I thought if I beat everybody down the floor, I would get the baskets because nobody would be with me."
Schrader said the Lancers always were aware of Cox's superior athletic ability. The great unknown was whether he could translate that into production on the floor.
"It was just (about him) getting the mentality that he could play at this level," Schrader said. "He didn't do a whole lot with us this summer; he played a little bit with us. But he really came into his own at the beginning of the season. We knew he had potential to do this, but maybe not to the extent he's doing it."
University City junior Jermar Perkins led all scorers with 27 points. Freshman Zachary Bush had 11 points off the bench.
Schrader said East much execute better defensively as the tournament heads into its final two days.
"I don't think we played defensively well at all," Schrader said. "They got to the basket, especially in the second half, basically whenever they really wanted to. Thus, it was a game.
"We've still got to make better decisions offensively and we've got to attack, be strong and be able to finish. Defensively, we've got to be able to contain our gaps better. They got to the rim on us way too easy. If we want to advance in this tournament, we have to play better."
Althoff 54, Triad 45
The Crusaders, seeded third, were in danger of being stunned by one-victory Triad until the fourth quarter when Althoff used an 8-0 flurry to settle the matter.
Freshman Jordan Goodwin hit a free throw, sophomore Keenen Young had a fast-break layup and Goodwin followed with a three-point play to put the Crusaders on top 50-44.
After the Knights were called for a three-second violation, senior Eric Mertens dropped in a layup to make it 52-44 with 1:01 left.
Althoff (6-2) will play Urbana or Collinsville in the quarterfinals Friday. Goodwin topped the Crusaders with 21 points and nine rebounds. Young and sophomore Brendon Gooch had 10 points apiece.
Crusaders coach Greg Leib wasn't surprised his club was tested by Triad (1-9), which played better than its record.
"Sam Drake's a really good coach," Leib said, pointing out that Drake also has two top-notch assistants in Jeff Faulkenberg and Todd Grigg. "Their kids played hard; they did a great job. They did what they needed to do --hit some shots.
"We picked it up for about a four-minute stretch at the end. We looked off. But credit our kids: They continued to battle, they didn't hang their heads, they didn't start pointing blame. They kept working throught it."
Freshman Noah Moss navigated the Knights with 17 points and four 3-pointers. Senior Jason Barbour had 12 points.
Lincoln 60, Granite City 22
Top-seeded Lincoln broke out to a 28-0 lead in the second quarter and led 30-2 at halftime. The Warriors finally converted their first basket with 7:26 to play in the third period.
A continuous running clock began in the fourth quarter when the Railsplitters, after being outscored 16-15 in the third quarter, re-established a 30-point bulge.
Three weird statistics emerged from the contest: Granite City (1-8) had just four fouls, Lincoln (8-0) made no free throws --on two attempts --and the Warriors outrebounded the Railsplitters 30-24.
Senior guards Joey Olden (12) and Max Cook (11) reached double figures for the winners. Sophomore Kenny Berry had nine points for Granite City, which was 7-for-30 (23 percent) from the floor.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.