One year later, Belleville East followed a similar script in the 33rd annual Collinsville-Prairie Farms Holiday Classic.
The Lancers lost their first game of the tournament Wednesday, then reeled off three consecutive victories and earned the fifth-place, consolation championship Friday.
East (8-4) overwhelmed Southwestern Conference opponent Collinsville 74-40 behind senior Javon Pickett’s game-high 31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
The Lancers shot 64 percent from the field (29-for-45).
“I started off kind of slow. The whole team did, actually,” said the 6-foot-4 Pickett, an Illinois recruit who scored all of his points in the second and third quarters. “Coach (Abel Schrader) kept saying, ‘Go to the basket. Go to the basket.’ And earlier today, my dad told me to be aggressive. That’s what I did and the game opened up.”
Pickett said it didn’t hurt that he consumed two bags of Skittles “so I could get my motor up.”
“I was moving kind of slow, so I ate some Skittles and the game got going good,” Pickett said. “I usually don’t do that, but I needed them. I ate them during the game. They gave me some energy. So on (Tuesday), I’ll be ready to play.”
East has a makeup game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against visiting O’Fallon.
The Lancers lost to Decatur Eisenhower 58-51 in the first round of the tournament Wednesday. They rebounded Thursday with victories over Oakville (66-42) and McCluer North (62-58).
East led Collinsville 10-6 after one quarter and 33-14 at halftime. The lead grew to 63-31 after three quarters, and the fourth quarter was played with a continuous running clock.
“The kids shot the ball well,” Schrader said. “A lot of guys stepped up. We would have liked to have been playing (Friday) night. It didn’t work out. But we didn’t pout about it and moved on. We did some good things. Our guys are starting to play for each other a little bit more. I’m very happy and very proud.”
Last year, East began a seven-game winning streak in the tournament. Pickett believes the Lancers can put together a similar stretch when they begin the new year.
“It doesn’t matter what type of championship it is. It still means something for our record and for us to get some self-esteem for the team. We needed that,” Pickett said. “The leadership that we had for these four games, even though we lost the first one, was great.
“I feel good about what we’re doing right now. It’s a learning process. We’re going out there trying to have fun and play for one another. We can be a more complete team. I feel like we can pull off more (wins). As long as we keep playing together, being a team and bonding together, we can win seven, eight, nine (in a row).”
Senior Rico Sylvester chipped in with 13 points for the Lancers. Senior Kenrique Brown, a Metro-East Lutheran transfer, led the Kahoks (6-7) with 14 points and four 3-pointers.
Collinsville lost to Decatur MacArthur 93-75 in the first round, then came back with wins over Riverview Gardens (59-34) and Hazelwood East (54-42) on Thursday.
The Kahoks’ next game is a rematch with the Lancers at 7:30 p.m. next Friday.