GODFREY — Belleville East appeared down and out in overtime Tuesday, but senior Darreon Reddick came to the rescue.
Reddick scored nine points in the extra period, including the go-ahead basket in the waning seconds, as the Lancers wiped out a four-point deficit in the final 1:23 to beat Alton 80-76 in a frenetic Southwestern Conference game.
"Basically, the whole overtime was about mental toughness," Reddick said. "Both teams were tired, both teams had played in this hot gym. We played tough as a team and got the win."
It was the Lancers' second victory this season over Alton, which is ranked seventh in the Class 4A state poll. The Redbirds dropped a one-point decision in the first meeting with East in Belleville, and their three SWC defeats have been by a total of six points.
Reddick led East (16-7 overall, 7-3 SWC) with 19 points. Seniors Brady Schanuel (15), Cameron Hunter (13) and Austin Cox (12) also reached double figures. Hunter fouled out late in regulation.
Senior Detae McMurray led the Redbirds (20-4, 8-3) with a game-high 22 points, while junior Carlos Anderson had 19, including 15 in the first half. Junior Bryan Hudson had all 16 of his points in the second half and senior Mike Williams-Bey had 10.
"I thought we had given it away in overtime, down four," Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. "But we got a very nice unforced error by them and Darreon made the play at the other end for us.
"This is a nice win. No matter how it looked like, this is a nice win."
East led 68-64 when senior Daymione Cross made one of two free throws with 33 seconds left in regulation. But McMurray sank two free throws to get Alton within 68-66.
McMurray then fouled Reddick, who missed the first of a one-and-one opportunity at the line. McMurray was fouled by Hunter as he attempted a shot, and his two free throws with 3.7 seconds left sent the game into OT.
The Redbirds appeared to be in the driver's seat after Anderson scored and the 6-foot-7 Hudson followed with a dunk to make it 76-72 with 1:23 left.
Reddick made two free throws to cut the Lancers' deficit to 76-74 with 1:07 to play, McMurray missed an ill-advised runner.
Schanuel was fouled in the lane and he made a free throw to bring East within 76-75 with 31.7 seconds left. Reddick then came up with a steal on the Redbirds' inbounds play and scored along the baseline to give the Lancers a 77-76 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
"I just tried to pressure fullcourt so it would take time off the clock," Reddick said. "They made a bad pass and the ball ended up in my hands. Once I got the ball, I was thinking, 'Attack the rim and (maybe) get a foul. Luckily, the shot went in."
Alton coach Eric Smith didn't blame McMurray for attempting a shot when the Redbirds led by one and East was in a position to commit a foul.
"We've kind of lived and died by that," Smith said.
After Reddick's go-ahead basket, McMurray missed another shot and Reddick grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made one of two free throws to make it 78-76, then rebounded Alton's missed shot and was fouled intentionally by Anderson with 5.6 seconds to play.
Reddick clinched the outcome with two free throws.
"I'm very proud of our kids. I thought we came out ready to play tonight from the start," said Schrader, whose team led 20-13 after one quarter, 38-30 at halftime and 53-43 after three quarters before being outscored 25-15 in the fourth period.
"They are tough. I said this the last time we played them: They pressure you the entire length of the game. Darreon handles the pressure better than anybody we have. ... I thought we did a good job making plays and handling their pressure."
The game was played in sauna-like conditions. The temperature was about 80, and many of the spectators spent the entire game fanning themselves to stay cool.
In the end, the Lancers were hotter than everyone.
"Alton's a good team," Reddick said. "They're ranked No. 1 in the area, so every time we play them or Edwardsville or any team ranked ahead of us, we have a chip on our shoulder. We want to play hard. I just wish we could play hard against every team."
Smith was subdued after the difficult loss.
"We had an opportunity," he said, referencing the narrow setbacks his team has had. "We've kind of been down this road a little bit. ... We had to exert so much energy to get back into the game."