Belleville East has had some hiccups on its home floor this season, but the Lancers didn’t let a 10-point lead against Missouri’s third-ranked Class 3 team get away from them.
Senior and University of Illinois commit Javon Pickett scored 30 points to lead the Lancers to a 73-66 win over St. Mary’s Catholic High School in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East on Tuesday.
The Lancers, who surrendered leads on their home floor in losses to Alton and O’Fallon, had to hold off a fourth-quarter St. Mary’s charge to preserve the win and advance to the tournament quarterfinals.
East (10-6) next plays Chaminade, No. 2 in Missouri on Friday at 7:30 p.m. St. Mary’s (14-2) will play Columbia in a consolation bracket game Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
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“We’ve been in a lot of tough ones, and I would say this is our best win so far,” said East head coach Abel Schrader. “It’s early. The one thing you’ve got to do is, no matter what happens, you play game by game. You can’t look long-term. On Friday, we play probably the best team in Missouri, so we’ll see what happens.”
Pickett shot 13 for 24 from the field, including a pair from beyond the arc to top the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season. He also had four rebounds and five steals.
“We got the ball to him, and he made strong moves to the basket. He used shot-fakes against bigger guys and was able to score,” Schrader said. “We had a lot of guys do some good things.”
East started the game on an 11-1 run and still led by seven midway through the third quarter. But St. Mary’s kept itself in the game by shooting 9 for 15 from 3-point range.
The Dragons rallied 10-2 to take a 57-55 lead with seven minutes left in the game.
Junior Jordan Yates scored eight late points, however, to extinguish the Dragons’ charge and preserve the victory. Yates also blocked a shot that Pickett took all the way to the goal to open up a three-possession lead with just under a minute left.
“That’s a very good ball club, and we hung on at the end and made enough plays,” Schrader said. “It wasn’t the prettiest, but you know what? For this team, who cares? We won.”
Sylvester had 10 points, and Yates finished with 14 points. E.J. Aldridge and Yates each had six rebounds.
St. Mary’s was led by Collin’s 18 points. Yahuza Rasas had 12 to go with a game-high seven boards.