State pride will be on the line this week at the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East.
All three Belleville schools are in the tournament, but will not meet one another. Instead, the opponents of the host Lancers, Belleville West and Althoff will be St. Louis schools McCluer, Normandy and St. Louis University High.
The tournament begins with McCluer (4-6) facing Belleville West (5-9) at 6 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Belleville East (5-10) opposing Normandy (3-11) at 7:30.
Normandy will face Althoff (14-2) at 6 p.m. Thursday, followed by Belleville West playing SLUH (8-6) at 7:30.
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The tournament concludes Friday and Saturday. Games Friday will be at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Games Saturday will be at 5, 6:30 and 8 p.m.
Althoff is the clear favorite. The Crusaders’ only losses are to Collinsville and Centralia. Althoff has three players averaging in double figures in sophomore Jordan Goodwin (19.5), junior Brendon Gooch (15.1) and junior Tarkus Ferguson (13.8), with sophomores Marvin Bateman (9.8) and C.J. Coldon (8) not far behind.
East, after dropping five in a row, has split its last four games and is coming off a 65-62 victory over Granite City. Sophomore Javon Pickett has been steady for the inexperienced Lancers, averaging 14.9 points.
The Lancers have won the past two Chick-fil-A Classics.
“We are hoping to gain some momentum before getting back into the second half of conference play,” said East coach Abel Schrader, whose team defeated Madison Prep, McCluer and Althoff to take the title last year.
West has lost four in a row and five of six. Senior Eugene Jones (12.8 points, 7.1 rebounds) and sophomore Tyler Dancy (12.4 points) lead the Maroons’ attack. Senior Austin Seibert has 26 3-pointers.
“I would like to see our team play more consistently for 32 minutes,” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “Right now, we are playing well in spurts throughout the game, but there are times where we have four minutes or a quarter where we do not. We are playing better right now, but we have also played some really good teams. So our record may not indicate that progress. But we are getting closer.”
Muniz said the Maroons are still without injured 6-foot-9 senior Will Presson, who they hope to have back in the lineup in the next two weeks. Presson has missed the last three games.
St. Louis U. High, the best of the Missouri schools in the tourney, has two players averaging in double figures in junior point guard Matt Nester (13.7) and sophomore shooting guard Brandon McKissic (13.6). The Junior Billikens have lost four of their last five since starting the season 7-2.