GRANITE CITY — Tra’ Allen had mixed emotions after his Granite City Warriors boys' basketball team lost 72-55 to the Belleville East Lancers on Friday at Memorial Gymnasium.
The Granite City senior was happy that he scored a career-high 35 points, including 27 in the second half.
“I knew I was capable of scoring 35 points,” Allen said. “My 35 doesn’t mean anything if my team doesn’t give me the ball and that’s what they did.”
But Allen was upset that his team didn’t pull off the victory over the Lancers. Granite City dropped its third game in a row, dipping to 8-8 overall and 3-4 in Southwestern Conference play.
“They’re a really good team,” Allen said. “We know that they’re ranked ninth in the area. We’re a good team, so we just had to come out there and play and we didn’t really play without or with Kenny (Berry).”
Berry, who is the Warriors’ leading scorer, sat out in his second game after suffering a knee injury against East St. Louis last week.
“Kenny is a tough loss, but hopefully he’ll be healthy and back next week,” Allen said. “With or without him, we can still win games. We just need to have a couple of our young guys step up and they’re capable of stepping up. They just have to believe in themselves.”
The Warriors will play Riverview Gardens at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the first game of the Triad Mid-Winter Classic. Last year, Granite City went 3-0 in the Triad tournament, beating Riverview Gardens, Columbia and Highland.
Granite City coach Steve Roustio said he hopes Berry returns to the team at the Triad tournament.
“Hopefully, we’ll have Kenny for at least Friday and the championship round on Saturday,” Roustio said. “We’ll see. It’s day to day. It’s up in the air. We’ll see what our trainer has to say and we’ll just go from there.”
Allen became the second Granite City player this year to score 30 or more points. Berry has scored 30 or more points twice this season.
“Without Kenny, we know our scoring was going to be down because he averages 21 points and I had to come out here and give Kenny a show,” Allen said.
Allen hit the 30-point mark after hitting two free throws with 3 minutes, 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter. With a basket with 1:08 remaining, Allen broke the team’s season-high mark of 34 points that was set by Berry on Dec. 30 against Collinsville in the consolation semifinals of the Prairie Farms Classic. Allen was the only Granite City player in double figures.
“Tra’ fought tonight,” Roustio said. “I’ve got to give that kid some credit.”
But Allen’s effort wasn’t enough to stop the Lancers, who dominated the game from the opening minute. The game began with Javon Pickett hitting a pair of technical free throws and Belleville East never looked back, taking a 21-7 lead after the first quarter and leading 43-17 at halftime.
“The tempo of the game wasn’t like we designed,” Roustio said. “We wanted to make seven or eight passes before we attacked and make Belleville East play defense for about 15 or 20 seconds. We were just impatient. Once you get down 10-2 or 14-4 and you’re impatient, then mentally you become more impatient, which creates a bigger problem. In essence, that basically what happened tonight.”
Roustio said he was pleased with the effort from junior Eugene Williba, who scored two points off the bench.
“He’s out there hustling,” the Granite City coach said. “He’s listening. He’s coachable and he’s a junior. He’s going to be around next year. That’s good. I think he earned himself some playing time in the near future.”
Belleville East improved to 12-4 overall and 5-2 in conference play. A year ago, the Lancers were 8-19.
“We already have four more wins than last year under our belt, so we’re feeling good right now and we’re going to keep riding this momentum that we have going into our Chick-Fil-A Classic Tournament,” Belleville East senior Drew Millas said.
Four Belleville East players scored in double figures. Pickett finished with 14 points, Millas and Jones each had 13 and sophomore Malachi Smith had 11.