The Columbia Eagles knew all about Belleville East junior Isaiah May.
May, after all, scored 17 points and made five 3-pointers in the Lancers’ 59-49 victory at Columbia on Dec. 9.
Fast-forward to Thursday when the teams met again in the consolation semifinals of the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East. For the second time, it was May who stepped up for the Lancers, scoring 19 points and canning five more 3-pointers in a 51-44 win over the Eagles.
“It feels good,” said the 6-foot-4, 180-pound May, who missed just two shots from beyond the arc. “We had to break this (four-game) losing streak. Coach (Jeff Creek) just told us to come out, play hard and give a maximum amount of effort like we did against Chaminade.”
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East’s losing skid included a pair of one-point heartaches against Collinsville and Granite City. But the Lancers seemed re-energized Wednesday in an 80-72 loss to St. Louis power Chaminade, and that same enthusiasm carried over into Thursday behind the play of May.
“He’s becoming more athletic, and that just comes with having more varsity experience,” Creek said. “He was a sophomore last year and played mostly on our JV team. But when he shoots the ball like that, it opens up things for everybody else on the court.”
Creek said May’s game continues to evolve.
“He was solely kind of a jump-shooter at the start of the year, but in practice and games, yeah, he can put it down and get to the basket,” Creek said. “He’s got good size. He is very, very quiet, but he works hard. He’s a great student and a great kid. We’re just proud that he’s turning in nice performances on the court.”
Senior Jaylen Lacey chipped in with 13 points for the Lancers (8-10), who will play Althoff (4-14) for the consolation championship at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Senior Kyle Yates had nine points. Junior Kienen Waller, who had 18 points Wednesday, was sick and did not score.
East shot 50 percent from the field (18 of 36).
The Lancers led 25-22 at halftime, but May hit a trio of 3-pointers as East pulled ahead 36-26 with 3:44 left in the third quarter. The margin swelled to 51-28 with 1:23 to play in the fourth quarter.
Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom doesn’t like the direction the Eagles (10-8) are headed, especially on the defensive end. Columbia will play Alton (10-7) in the seventh-place game at noon Saturday.
“I’m OK with (May’s) drives, but we lost him (on 3s),” Sandstrom said. “We reminded them that he’s a good shooter, a good player. You can’t lose somebody three times in the first two and a half minutes of the second half. That was the deciding factor. It’s very disheartening as a coach when we’ve already played them once, and he had five 3s on us the first time.
“That’s just a lack of focus. We’ve talked about playing better, but right now, we’re 10-8. We’ve underachieved. In life, you have to do some extra. Our kids need to do some extra.”
Junior Jon Peterson scored 16 points to lead Columbia. Senior Jordan Holmes had 14. The Eagles shot 46 percent from the floor (18 of 39) but were just 7 of 14 from the free-throw line.
“We focused so much on Holmes, which you have to do because he’s a great player,” Creek said. “But then he sets screens, and it’s tough for us to get out and bump the Peterson kid, who has great body control. And he can step out and shoot the 3. He made some tough shots tonight.”