The Belleville East Lancers keep rolling along.
The somewhat unsung trio of Jalen Jones, Drew Millas and Malachi Smith combined for 28 points in the first half and the Lancers’ defense was dominant as Belleville East jumped out to a 43-17 halftime lead and coasted by Granite City 72-55 in Southwestern Conference game on Friday at Granite City High School.
With high-scoring junior Javon Pickett picking up a pair of charging fouls in the first three minutes, the rest of the Lancers stepped forward, outscoring Granite City 34-13 over the final 10 minutes of the first half to take a commanding 26-point lead at halftime.
Millas led the Lancers attack with a pair of 3-point field goals and 10 points in the opening two quarters while Jones and Smith added nine points each. Granite City, playing without leading scorer Kenny Berry (knee injury) was no match for Belleville East (12-4, 5-2). The Lancers ran their winning streak to six games.
“I’ve been saying all along that we have a lot of players who can score and we showed that tonight. We passed the ball very well and we got a lot of guys involved in the offense tonight,” Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. “We know they (Granite City) didn’t have Berry, but even so, we held them to 17 points in the first half. That’s very good.”
Millas led Belleville East with 15 points, while Pickett added 14, including eight in the second half. Jones (13 points) and Smith (11) were also in double figures for East.
Senior Traron Allen led Granite City and all scorers with a career-high 35 points, including 20 in the fourth quarter when East had its second string in the game.
But for coach Steve Roustio it proved to be a long night without his best player. The Warriors head coach said after the game that he hopes to have Berry back early next week but that it could be until Granite City plays Highland on Friday before Berry is back in the starting lineup.
“Not only does not having Kenny on the floor hurt us from a scoring perspective, but because so much of our offense and most of our offensive sets are either designed or go through him, it limits what we can do when he’s not there,” Roustio said. “We had to go with more of out generic plays and sets tonight.”
With both Pickett and Isaiah King picking up two quick fouls each, East led just 9-4 late in the first quarter until warming up from beyond the 3-point line.
First Millas, then Jones connected on 3-point shots on consecutive possessions and following a basket by Warriors junior Torrey Deal, Smith nailed the Lancers third 3-point basket in less than a minute as their lead ballooned to 18-7.
Granite City (8-8) would get no closer for the rest of the night.
“We shot the ball well from the 3-point line early and we were able to get out to a nice lead,” Schrader said. “We know that the next time we play them (Granite City) they will have a different look because they’ll have Kenny (Berry) back, but I was pleased with how we played tonight.
“This isn’t an easy place to win.”
Playing hard to the end, Allen was the offensive star of the night as he scored well ofer half the Warriors points, finishing with 35.
“He’s a three-year player and he knows about playing hard until the end. Traron had a big night for us,” Roustio said. “I thought the East coach showed a lot of class by playing his reserves in the fourth quarter and when the outcome had been decided.”