The smallest player on the court, East St. Louis sophomore Jashawn Anderson, stood tall when it counted the most Friday at Belleville East.
A 5-foot-9 guard, Anderson scored his only points of the game — on consecutive possessions — and added a key steal in the final 1:45 to help lift East St. Louis to a 56-49 win over East in a Southwestern Conference game.
Trailing from the start and facing a 39-29 deficit early in the third quarter, the Lancers (9-11, 1-7) rallied behind the play of seniors Jaylen Lacey and Jordan Yates. The duo tallied 14 points in the third quarter to bring East to within 43-42.
With senior Joe Reece on the bench with four fouls, East St. Louis went the final two minutes of the third quarter and opening 90 seconds of the final quarter without scoring a point.
Junior Terrence Hargrove Jr. finally broke the Flyers’ scoring drought, but when Lancers junior Jared Adams scored with just under three minutes left, the Lancers had their first and only lead of the night at 49-47.
Adams’ points would be the final ones of the game for East, which committed seven turnovers in its final 10 offensive possessions.
“We really played very good man-to-man defense tonight and especially in the last three minutes,” Flyers coach Mark Chambers said. “We’ve really put a lot of working on defense here recently. We realize that we have to make it happen on that end of the court.”
Having Anderson on the floor didn’t hurt the Flyers chances, either. Anderson connected on a short jumper with 1:45 left to tie the game at 49. Then on the Flyers’ next possession, Anderson swept up a loose ball and gently banked it in to give East St. Louis the lead for good.
Following another Lancers turnover, Anderson missed the front end of a one-and-one situation. But the Flyers guard quickly made up for the missed free throw when he stripped the ball away from a Lancers player and fed Reece, who gave the Flyers an insurance basket for a 53-49 lead with 13.5 seconds remaining.
“We fight from behind all night and we make big plays to get back in the game and take the lead, but then in the final three minutes, we turn the ball over seven times,” a frustrated Lancers coach Jeff Creek said. “I don’t care who you are playing. You’re not going to win turning the basketball over seven times in the last 10 possessions.”
Reece led the Flyers (9-9) with 19 points, while Hargrove, who also spent time on the bench in foul trouble, added 13.
Yates led East with 15 points.