GRANITE CITY — If they struggle on offense, the Belleville East Lancers have learned to compensate by clamping down on defense.
Austin Cox scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half as the Lancers pulled away to a 42-25 win over the Granite City Warriors on Friday night in a Southwestern Conference game.
"We certainly couldn't get anything going offensively -- that's kind of been our story this year -- but I will say that our kids do put a little bit of effort into guarding," East coach Abel Schrader said. "You can say a lot of things. Was it good defense or did they miss some shots? I think they missed some shots early on, which helped us, and our kids played hard in the second half.
"Obviously, we're happy to hold them to that kind of scoring. It gives us a good chance to win."
Cox got most of his points off layups and post moves.
"Austin has played pretty consistent for us," Schrader said. "He got the ball in post and made some good post moves, which got him going a little bit. And, against their zone, we were patient enough to look for him, and he did a nice job finishing today."
The Warriors (2-13, 0-7) hung tough for 1 1/2 quarters. They led 17-16 midway through the second quarter, but they only scored eight points the rest of the way.
"I think what East did is defensively they got a little bit more physical with us," Granite City coach Steve Roustio said. "I don't mean it wasn't clean. It was clean physicality.
"They stepped up their defense and they started to post us up. They were patient enough to get the ball inside."
With no seniors, the Warriors are at a disadvantage in terms of both physical strength and playing experience.
"When you put anywhere between three and four, and at times before Darrion Flemons hurt his ankle, five sophomore starters, it's a youth issue," Roustio said. "These guys were playing freshman-jayvee basketball last year.
"I think we play hard enough, but I don't think we play well enough. We're learning how to be consistent. I have to be honest as far as being proud of my guys. If I can get them to understand that, 'Hey, you guys are young. You're going to take your bumps this year, but if you do all the things right as far as the offseason with bringing everybody together and some of these schools graduating people, we will turn the corner."'
Kenny Berry had seven points and Traron Allen had six to pace the Warriors.
The Lancers also got 14 points from Cameron Hunter.
The score was tied five times in the early going before the Warriors went up 11-9 on a basket by Traron Allen off an alley-oop pass from Willie Beckwith.
East's Brady Schanuel sank a free throw to get the Lancers within 11-10 with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
Beckwith sank two free throws and scored on a layup at the start of the second quarter as the Warriors went up 15-10.
The Lancers regained the lead after Hunter scored on a rebound basket.
Hunter was fouled on the play. He missed the free throw, but Austin Cox put back the rebound to give the Lancers a 17-16 advantage.
The Warriors briefly regained the lead on a basket in the lane by Berry, but the Lancers scored the final seven points of the second quarter pull in front 23-17.
Hunter had a pair of layups and Rico Sylvester Jr. had a 3-pointers during the surge.
The Lancers scored the first six points of the second half as their run reached 13-0. They went up 29-17 on back-to-back layups by Hunter.
The third quarter ended with Cox dunking off a pass from Darreon Reddick. The dunk put the Lancers ahead 35-19.
The Lancers' lead peaked at 21 points on a layup by Cox with 4:06 remaining.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.