The season debut of Belleville East junior Javon Pickett was one to remember on Monday at the Centralia Thanksgiving Tournament. And also one for the ages.
Displaying his total offensive arsenal, the 6-foot-4 Pickett scored a career-high 41 points — 24 of which came in the second half — as the Lancers rolled to an opening night 70-52 win over Springfield High.
With Pickett scoring all but eight of the Lancers points, East led only 25-24 at halftime. But taking the advice of his coaches to take the ball to the basket in the second half, Pickett did just that as he scored the Lancers first nine points of the third quarter as East opened its lead.
When reserve senior Feron Doss hit one of two free throws with 5:01 left in the quarter, the Lancers had a 35-24 lead. Springfield (0-1) would get no closer the rest of the night.
Enjoying his finest offensive night ever, Pickett scored 16 points in the third quarter as the Lancers extended their lead to 50-36.
“When’s the last time I scored 41? Never,’’ a smiling Pickett said. “The difference in the second half was at halftime the coaches told me I was settling for the outside jumper too much.
“The second half I was able to get the ball inside more. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball in a position where I could score.’’
EnRico Sylvester added 16 points for East (1-0), which will take on Mascoutah at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday in its second game of the round-robin tournament.
Isaac Nelson led Springfield (0-1) with 18 points.
East coach Abel Schrader
Perhaps suffering from opening night nerves, East was just 11 of 26 from the floor in the first half with six turnovers.
Springfield led 14-11 early in the second quarter, but a 10-0 Lancers run gave them the lead for good. Pickett, who added a pair of 3-point field goals in addition to his strong work with short-range jumpers, had four points as did senior Isaiah King and Sylvester added a bucket on a layup.
But it was Pickett who simply went to work in the third quarter as the Lancers took command.
“What did we have in the second half? Three turnovers? With as much of an up and down the court game this was, that’s pretty good,’’ Schrader said. “I also felt we did a good job of limiting the number of offensive rebounds they (Springfield) were getting. They were shooting a lot of 3’s which meant there were a lot of long rebounds. But we did a good job of boxing out.
“Javon had a big game for us. He got the ball inside a lot more in the second half and he also got a few points on transition off the break. But I told him after the game that he wouldn’t have had a chance to score 41 tonight if his teammates hadn’t done such a good job of getting him the basketball.’’
Key sequence in the game
With just a one point lead, Pickett wasted little time in the third quarter as he and his Lancers teammates broke the game open.
In the first two minutes of the quarter, Pickett tallied on a 10-foot runner in the lane, a 15-foot baseline jumper and scored on a conventional 3-point play. He added a second 3-point play that put East up 41-28 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
Sylvester also got into the act in the third quarter, scoring seven of his 14 second half points.
“EnRico got going in the second half,’’ Schrader said. “I’m pleased. It was a good start. But this was just one of what 30 games? We have a lot of work to do.
“We’ll get back at it tomorrow (Tuesday) and get ready for Mascoutah.’’
In the second game on Monday
Centralia 59, Mascoutah 36: D’Aaron Owens had 20 points and Tyriq Billberry added 14 as the host Orphans rolled past the Indians.
Ethan Mayberry led Mascoutah with 12 points.