Before sending his East St. Louis basketball team out to play Belleville East on Friday, coach Phillip Gilbert’s pre-game message to his Flyers was short and to the point.
His message was simply: “Don’t quit playing hard.”
And on this night the Flyers followed Gilbert’s instructions to the letter.
Freshman Terrence Hargrove scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter while Kenny Roberson added 18 points as East St. Louis ended a night of scoring runs with a flurry as it rallied past Belleville East 73-68 in a Southwestern Conference game.
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Trailing by as many as 11 points midway in the second quarter, the Flyers stayed on course. Getting strong play from Patrick Baxter (eight points) and Karon Randolph (15 points), the Flyers rallied back to within a point, 35-34, at halftime.
High scoring Lancers junior Javon Pickett then scored early in the third quarter as East (14-7, 5-4) opened a six-point lead. But as they did all night, the Flyers (9-10, 5-3) answered a Belleville East run with one of their own.
“Basketball is a game of runs and so in my pregame talk I just emphasized not giving up or getting own on yourself if we fall behind. I wanted the kids to be strong and fight until the end,” Gilbert said. “This is a big win for us. I felt that they (East) had two of the best guards in the conference in Rico (Sylvester) and Javon (Pickett).
“Our game plan was to run as many different kids at them as we could to see if we could tire them out. Late in the second half I think they were.”
Karon Randolph added 15 points for East St. Louis while Pickett led all scorers with 30 points for Belleville East. Jalen Jones added 19 points for the Lancers.
Roberson and Randolph combined for nine points in the third period as East St. Louis rallied to take a 49-47 lead.
With the score tied at 51 early in the final quarter, Roberson hit a 3-point basket to make the score 54-51. Jones then cut the Lancers deficit to a single point.
The Flyers then scored the next five points when Arthur Carter made a free throw, Hargrove, an athletic 6-5 forward, grabbed an offensive rebound and scored and when Roberson stole a pass and followed with a short jumnper, the Flyers lead was 59-53.
Seconds later Hargrove scored again and the lead was 61-53 with still over four minutes remaining.
“When we played with energy tonight we played well. When we didn’t we struggled,” Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. “We had two many turnovers and we gave up too many easy baskets.”
Still struggling from the foul line, East St. Louis couldn’t put the Lancers away. Jones put East to within 69-66 with a 3-point basket with 40 seconds left, but the Flyers Marquise Chairs made two of four free throw attempts to ice the win.
Roberson and Hargrove were an unstoppable 1-2 punch for the Flyers as they scored 36 points.
“Kenny (Roberson) plays with a lot of emotion and he showed that tonight. He hit some huge shots,” Gilbert said. “Terrence (Hargrove) is a kid who goes hard every second he’s on the floor and tonight he did a great job on the boards and played with a lot of energy.”