BELLEVILLE — Belleville East and Althoff had forged a mutual respect for one another throughout the course of the season, long before they met for the first time Saturday night.
Neither team, then, was surprised by the competitive fire that highlighted East's 70-60 win over the Crusaders in the championship game of the Chick-fil-A Classic at East.
The Lancers (13-5) finally shook the Crusaders (14-5) with an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter that began with a 3-pointer by senior Darreon Reddick, who topped all scorers with 27 points.
Reddick's shot put East ahead 49-48 with 5:44 to play, and the Lancers poured it on during the next 1:28 as junior Brady Schanuel had a layup on a runout, Reddick made two free throws, senior Cameron Hunter had a three-point play and senior Domonic Blaylock had a free throw. Hunter finished with 17 points.
Reddick wore a look of aggression throughout the game, using dribble penetration and nifty moves to regularly get to the rim and finish.
"I had a talk with my family, stuff like (having) that killer instinct the whole game. Be aggressive the whole game," Reddick said. "Sometimes, I have two-point first halves and try to turn it on too late. I had a mind-set that I was going to be aggressive from the jump and keep it on all game."
Reddick earned the tournament's most valuable player award. Joining him on the all-tournament team were freshman Jordan Goodwin and sophomore Brendon Gooch of Althoff, senior Arlando Cook of Madison College Prep and freshman Ryan Warren-Hogue of McCluer.
Reddick said he also was inspired by a sense that the Crusaders were considered the favorites. Althoff took a six-game winning streak into the game and had been playing its best basketball of the season with notable wins over Fort Zumwalt North, previously unbeaten Centralia and Gibault.
But the Lancers were on a tear of their own with five consecutive wins since suffering a 47-44 loss to East St. Louis in the third-place game of the Collinsville-Schnucks Holiday Classic nearly a month ago.
"I was just really excited about this game," Reddick said. "Althoff is a crosstown rival, so it was a good game to see that we were going to play hard and win or be talked about all year about losing to Althoff.
"They were hyped up a lot. Jordan Goodwin, Kevin Renner, all their good players. They weren't talking about us a lot, so we had to come out and prove ourselves. I think we did. ... Everybody had a good performance. Everybody was scoring good and we were playing defense. We won, so I'm happy."
Lancers coach Abel Schrader was hopeful of keeping the Crusaders in the 40s, much like Belleville West did in its 48-47 loss to Althoff on Friday. Instead, Gooch (21 points), Goodwin (20) and Renner (10) all reached double figures, although no other Crusader had more than four points.
"We gave up 60 points, but boy, they've got four guys who can put it on the floor and it's hard matchups," Schrader said. "They're above-average shooters and above-average finishers. I thought our guys battled hard. ... We gave up 60, but our guys played hard. I'm proud of the way they played."
Althoff coach Greg Leib said East's 11-0 run "was like getting hit in the gut."
"It just knocked the wind out of us," he said. "They're capable of doing that. They got some easy looks, and a big part of that was Reddick and Cameron (Hunter). If Reddick did miss on occasion, Cameron was there to get the rebound.
"They're a good ballclub. That's the reason they've won 13 games with the teams they play."
Now it's East with a six-game winning streak it will try to protect when it plays at Belleville West (3-13) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference game. Winning the Chick-fil-A Classic has given the Lancers momentum.
"We beat three good teams," said Schrader, also counting Madison College Prep and McCluer. "It's fun for the kids. We keep plugging. Our mind-set is we have to be able to guard someone first and see where we go. We haven't scored 70 points since the first game of the season (vs. Mahomet-Seymour). If this continues ... We go back into conference play Tuesday and we'll see what happens."
The Lancers also scored more than 70 points in a 71-60 win over University City in the Collinsville tournament.
Althoff will try to pick up the pieces Friday when it plays host to Mount Vernon in a South Seven Conference game. The Crusaders lost to the Rams 69-62 on Jan. 3 in Mount Vernon.
"It's a growing process," Althoff coach Greg Leib said. "It's a long season. I've said all year there's a lot of things we can get better at. We found some tonight."