BELLEVILLE — After watching his team withstand some frenetic defensive pressure being applied by the East St. Louis Flyers on Wednesday, Belleville East coach Abel Schrader could finally breathe a little easier.
The Lancers held off a second-half rally by the Flyers and posted a 58-50 semifinal victory to reach the championship game of the Class 4A Belleville West Regional.
"I thought our kids did a good job of handling it," said Schrader, whose 19-9 club will face O'Fallon (16-12) for the regional title at 7 p.m. Friday. "When you put pressure against a team, you have to beat that pressure by going to the basket and our kids did that."
Senior guard Austin Cox had no problem fighting through the defense, finishing with a game-high 20 points including 14 in the first half.
But when the Lancers were searching for offense with the Flyers threatening, it was senior Domonic Blaylock to the rescue.
Right after the Flyers' Dominique Nelson tied it 43-43 with 5:20 remaining, Blaylock answered with a 3-pointer. Nelson tossed in another 3-pointer and this time it was a Cox slam dunk, followed by Blaylock's shot that gave the Lancers a 52-36 lead.
Blaylock scored again with 1:36 remaining to push a three-point lead to five, scoring seven of his 12 points in the final quarter.
"When he's in rhythm, he can be a pretty good shooter," Schrader said. "Darreon (Reddick) draws a lot of attention and he did a good job of kicking it out and he made plays. It boils down to what team made more plays and thankfully for us, we did."
East St. Louis (17-8) led 16-12 early, but the Flyers were outscored 20-8 during a strong second quarter by Belleville East.
Cox fueled the assault with 12 of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter.
"Austin played well for us the entire game, but we had a lot of guys step up," Schrader said. "Darreon stepped up, Cameron (Hunter), Domonic...this is a team effort and it's a very good win. Now we've got one day to prepare for another big game."
Reddick added 14 points for Belleville East, Blaylock had 12 and Cameron Hunter had eight.
Karon Randolph scored eight of his team-leading 12 points during the third quarter for the Flyers as they wiped out what had been a nine-point Belleville East lead.
Nelson had 11 points and Terry Beckner, Jr., added seven. Flyers' leading scorer Darrion Bean, averaging 12.8 points, finished with four.
Belleville East and East St. Louis were already quite familiar with each other after playing three previous games, two of which were won by Belleville East.
"We've played East St. Louis four times and this will be the third time we've played O'Fallon," Schrader said. "It is what it is."