The best night in the young varsity career of Bryce Dowell couldn’t have come at better time for the Belleville East Lancers than on Tuesday in their Southwestern Conference opener against Alton.
A 5-foot-9 sophomore forward, Dowell came off the bench to score nine of her career-high 14 points in the first half to help the Lancers defeat Alton 61-43 in a girls high school basketball game at Belleville East High School.
Four days removed from a fifth place finish at the Salem Thanksgiving Tournament where they won four of five games, the Lancers (5-1) jumped out to leads of 16-10 after one quarter and 33-22 at halftime against the Redbirds (0-1, 1-4).
With Kaylah Rainey scoring six of her 12 points and Grace Tantillo adding four points, East went on a 12-3 scoring run in the first five minutes of the third quarter and took it biggest lead of the game — 26 points — on a pair of free throws by Destiny Johnson with under 90 seconds left in the period.
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With another Southwestern Conference game on tap on Wednesday at O’Fallon, East coach Amanda Kemezys went to her bench often in the final quarter. Rainey, the Lancers sophomore point guard, did not play the final 10 minutes on Tuesday.
“She (Rainey) is fine. With O’Fallon tomorrow we just wanted to give her a little extra rest,” Kemezys said. “Bryce (Dowell) came in and gave us a lift in the first half and she played very well. It’s always nice when you have a sophomore come out and have a game like she did tonight”
The Lancers, led by the sharpshooting Brittney Nitz, had seven players combine for 16 points in a sluggish first quarter which saw the Lancers and Redbirds combine for 16 of their 22 first half turnovers.
Nitz hit a pair of mid-range jumpers, while Dowell canned a 3-point jumper as part of an 8-2 Lancers surge as they broke an 8-all tie with an 8-2 scoring run to take a 16-10 lead after one quarter.
Alton would get no closer the rest of the night.
“I thought we played hard and we did some good things tonight,” Alton coach Bob Rickman said. “We just struggled against their (East) pressure and maybe we rushed some things and forced some shots. But we had 16 turnovers in the first half to six for them. That’s 10 more possessions and in one half that’s quite a few.”
Dowell continued to shine in the second quarter while Rainey, despite an off shooting night, added four as did Nitz as the Lancers lead grew to 33-22 at halftime. But was play was ragged at time on both ends of the floor.
“They (Alton) likes to play fast and so do we. Sometimes when you get two teams with that style, the game can get a little sloppy. It did tonight,” Kemezys said. “Overall, I’m pleased. I wish we would have played a little cleaner early in the game. But its a win and now we come back tomorrow (Wednesday) with O’Fallon.
Rainey added 12 points and Nitz chipped in with 10 for Belleville East. Kenya Burnett had 11 points to lead Alton.