Belleville East didn’t win Wednesday, but the Lancers took a big step on the road to respectability.
East stayed in contention with Chaminade, one of the top teams in St. Louis, until the final moments of an 80-72 loss to the Red Devils in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East.
“I know I always say this, but it’s effort,” Lancers coach Jeff Creek said. “We gave great effort against Collinsville but didn’t give good effort against Granite City. And we came out and gave great effort tonight. That’s what we need to do. We shot the ball a lot better. But we have to give that effort to really spark us and get us going.
“Chaminade is an unbelievable team. We hung with them stride for stride.”
The Lancers (7-10) will play Columbia (10-7) in the consolation semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday. It’s a rematch of the game played between the teams Dec. 9 in Columbia — a game the Lancers won 59-49.
Chaminade (12-2) will face St. Mary’s (14-2) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday.
Senior Jericole Hellems, a North Carolina State recruit, led the Red Devils with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Keyyaun Batchman had 18 points, senior Jadis White had 15 points and six assists and sophomore Luke Kasubke had 10 points.
The Lancers, who committed 22 turnovers, were led by junior Isaiah May, whose 23 points matched a season- and career-high. May also had five 3-pointers. Junior Kienen Waller had 18 points and four 3-pointers and senior Jaylen Lacey had 17 points.
“We played together more than we did in the other games,” Lacey said. “We’ve just got to put all the pieces together and we’ll start winning more games consistently.”
East trailed 62-49 when Hellems scored on a putback with 2:03 left in the third quarter. Another putback by Hellems made it 73-63 with 4:38 to play.
Chaminade appeared in even firmer control moments later when senior Henry Gladson grabbed a rebound and scored to make it 78-67. But Lacey made two free throws and May popped a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 78-72 with 1:21 remaining.
The Lancers, however, were forced to foul. Hellems couldn’t convert a one-and-one, but East was unable to capitalize on the other end. Finally, White made two free throws to provide the winning margin with 33.4 seconds left.
“Coach is good with those kids,” Chaminade coach Frank Bennett said of Creek. “They play hard for him and they’re defending their home. When you’re coming into tournament play and you’re playing the host school at their place, I don’t care what the records are. They go out the door. And if you don’t respect the fact they go out the door, you go home.”
Lacey and Hellems guarded one another, which was a spirited battle inside the battle with Lacey giving away 5 inches.
“He’s a great scorer. It was just fun playing against him,” Lacey said. “You’ve got to make sure you don’t have any kind of letdowns or any stretches where you’re not doing well. You’ve got to keep your foot on the pedal against Chaminade.”