Even when the Belleville East Lancers weren’t playing their best, Isiaiah May wouldn’t let O’Fallon get too far ahead.
The Lancers’ senior forward landed three 3-point baskets which put Belleville East ahead. May’s fourth 3-pointer, with 2:33 left in the game, gave the Lancers the lead for good in a 55-47 Southwestern Conference home-court victory over the Panthers Friday.
“I just try to keep my head,” May said. “We have to move the ball around and still protect the basket, but coach says if we can shoot the ball with confidence to go ahead and shoot.”
May finished with a game-high 16 points and added four rebounds.
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“He shot the ball well and was productive too,” East coach Jeff Creek said. “He scored 16 points but didn’t seen like he shot the ball much. And he played every minute of the game. His defense was as important and as good as his offense.”
The win was typical of what Creek expects from the Lancers this season — keep the scoring down, don’t let the oppositions best player beat them, and let May make the big shots.
It wasn’t textbook, though. Unforced turnovers, especially in the first half, gave Creek pause while assessing the win.
“It wasn’t the number of turnovers, it was the unforced turnovers we committed because we were trying to rush everything,” Creek said.
Still, he’ll take the conference win, East’s second since knocking off Edwardsville last week.
“We have take advantage of any opportunity we have to win in conference. I think the kids are figuring out how important it is based on the quality of the competition we’re going to see,” Creek said. “We’re happy with any conference win, but there is a lot we need to do to improve.”
O’Fallon (3-3) led most of the first half until a pair of 3-pointers from May put East ahead 19-18 and a 12-foot jumper by senior Kienen Waller and a layup at the buzzer by Malik Williams gave the Lancers a 23-20 halftime advantage.
Caleb Burton put the Panthers ahead by three with just over three minutes left in the game when East’s Jared Adams got a point back from the free throw line and May drained his fourth and final 3-pointer of the night to vault the Lancers into the lead for good. The Lancers closed on an 11-2 run.
The Lancers shot just 36.7 percent from the field, but cashed in on May’s 4-for-6 performance from beyond the arc. Jared Adams pitched in 11 points, including 4-for-6 from the free-throw line.
East next faces Alton at home Tuesday.
“Things are going good, I think, but coach thinks we can be better,” May said. “We have to come back out against Alton Tuesday and keep looking to improve.”
In the meantime, East held O’Fallon’s top two scorers, Shaun Riley II and Kyle Dismukes, to just six points total. The Panthers shot 37.5 percent from the field. They were 5 of 13 on free throws.
Drew Tebbe and Kameron Neal led the way for O’Fallon with nine points each.
The Panthers travel to Belleville West Tuesday.