Belleville East must have felt at times like it was climbing a mountain that had no summit.
The Lancers rallied to within striking distance of O’Fallon from one deep deficit after another, only to see the Panthers find a way to answer.
But senior Jaylen Lacey pulled the Lancers to the top twice in a 72-68 double overtime win Friday at O’Fallon’s Panther Dome.
It was his off-balanced 3-point shot with 11 seconds left in regulation that pulled the Lancers even for the first time in the second half. And it was his buzzer-beater with one foot over the arc line that knotted things up again at the end of the first overtime.
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Both shots helped East overtime a 31-point effort by O’Fallon senior Jalen Hodge.
“We just told him in the timeout we’ve got to get going, screen the top of the shot,” fist-year East coach Jeff Creek said of Lacey’s second overtime shot. “It’s tough to get a shot off on the zone, but he showed some senior leadership. He stepped up and buried it.”
Kienen Waller scored once from the perimeter and five times from the free-throw line in the deciding four-minute period to cinch a big victory for the Lancers, who improved to 5-4 with their second straight win.
“The kids on both sides gave maximum effort so it’s hard for either team to lose a game like this,” Creek said. “It was a complete team effort and the kids are starting to buy into that. They’re seeing that we have to play that way. We have to have five guys playing hard and playing together to be successful.”
Four of Creek’s players reached double figures, including Waller’s 12, Lacey’s 11 and Jordan Yates’ 19. It was Isaiah May’s team-high 23 that broke the O’Fallon zone and paved the way for the late, and final, East comeback.
“Isaiah May shot the lights out. He shot them out of the zone to where they had to go man-to-man, which what we wanted them to do,” Creek said. “He shot the ball so well and is really starting to step up as a junior. He may be the main reason we won tonight.”
The Lancers led briefly once in the first half when a 6-0 run put them ahead 20-19. That set off what would have been a frustrating pattern had the Lancers not prevailed.
O’Fallon surged ahead by nine early in the third quarter, only to see East pull back within two on May’s 3-pointer. Then the Panthers rallied back to a nine-point lead.
East was back within two in the fourth. Then back-to-back 3-point baskets from Hodge and Teron Bowman II gave O’Fallon a nine-point lead with 2:30 left in the game.
Lacey’s 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left brought East back to even.
As was the pattern, though, O’Fallon surged ahead by four with 9.7 seconds left. Down by three, Lacey took an inbound pass and dribbled the length of the court for another game-tying shot. The Lancers crowded the floor, believing Lacey had won it from beyond the arc.
“I thought I was over the line and that we had won it,” Lacey said. “The referee told me I had a foot over, but I don’t know. It just feels good right now to have the win.”
O’Fallon (4-3) also got a big night from Bowman, who scored 17 points. The Panthers play at Belleville West on Monday. East is back on the road in Alton, also Monday.