BELLEVILLE — The Belleville East Lancers didn't have all the answers against the non-stop pressure of Alton on Friday.
But they had enough.
Senior Cameron Hunter led a balanced attack with 19 points and the Lancers made enough plays down the stretch to stun Alton 59-58 in a Southwestern Conference game.
Ranked seventh in the Class 4A state poll, Alton trailed 59-54 following a short jumper by Darreon Reddick and a conventional three-point play by Hunter with 1:43 remaining.
A pair of baskets by Alton's Datae McMurrary -- the second coming with 57 seconds left -- cut the Lancers' lead to 59-58.
Following missed free throws from the Lancers' Daymione Cross and Reddick and a missed layup by McMurray, Alton got the ball with 12 seconds remaining.
With two fouls to give, the Lancers then fouled McMurray before he get a shot off and when Redbirds center Bryan Hudson's 10-foot jumper bounced off the rim at the buzzer, the Lancers celebrated as their fans stormed the court.
"They (Alton) are so quick and they put that constant pressure on you for 32 minutes. We knew it was coming. But even so it's still tough to simulate that in practice. But for the most part I thought we handed it well,'' East coach Abel Schrader said. "You know we made some mistakes and it wasn't always pretty, but the kids made the plays when they needed too.
"This is a big win for a lot of reasons.''
The win moves East to 6-3 in the SWC and 15-6 for the season. Alton, which entered play Friday with a mark of 17-2 and tied for the SWC lead, falls to 6-2 in the conference and a game behind Edwardsville, following its 58-49 win against East St. Louis on Friday.
Following the loss, Redbirds coach Eric Smith said a sluggish first half came back to haunt his team.
"That's the $1-million dollar question? Why we sluggish in the first half. I really don't know. I have no clue,'' Smith said. "We just didn't get after it on the defensive end of the court like we needed too.'
"You need to be ready to play for 32 minutes every night in this conference. We learned a hard-lesson tonight. I just hope it's not a lesson that costs us the SWC title.''
Getting six points from Hunter and four apiece from Reddick and Brady Schanuel, the Lancers led by as many as six points early and owned leads of 16-14 after one quarter and 30-29 at halftime.
But Alton turned up the pressure in the third quarter.
East, which committed only five turnovers in he first half, equaled that number in the opening three minutes of the second half.
Michael Williams-Bey, Darrius Edwards and McMurray combined for five steals and 11 points as Alton took a six-point lead late in the period.
But baskets by Hunter and Reddick brought East back to within 46-44 entering the fourth quarter.
Hunter and Reddick combined for all 14 of the Lancers' points in the third quarter.
"That was a big turning point, because instead of being down five or six, we were down two and we had a little momentum going into the final quarter,'' Schrader said. "Darreon played all 32 minutes against that pressure and so he was really gassed. But I thought he stepped up and made big plays and I thought Austin (Cox) and Cameron (Hunter) played very well tonight.''
Reddick, who finished with 17 points, scored early in the fourth quarter and when Cox scored on consecutive trips down the floor, East led 52-50 with five minutes remaining.
McMurray led Alton with 16 points. Edwards and Williams-Bey chipped in with 14 each.