More than 4,700 were treated to some spectacular, record-breaking basketball at the 48th annual Chick Fil-A Classic held during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday week at Belleville East.
For the first time in its nearly five decades of hoops, the tournament featured eight teams instead of six, according to Belleville East Athletic Director Mark Larsen, which allowed four action-packed days of games to be scheduled. Tournament teams included the three Belleville senior high schools – Belleville East, Belleville West and Althoff Catholic – as well as Alton, Columbia and three St. Louis schools Chaminade, McCluer and St. Mary’s.
“People said it was one of the best tournaments we’ve had in years,” Larsen said. “It featured a lot of high-scoring and very competitive contests. We’re grateful for the support of our sponsor, the Greenmount Commons Chick Fil-A and we’re glad we were able to put together a great tournament that featured some very high quality basketball.”
Chaminade (16-1), came into the tournament as defending Missouri Class 5 state champion and the top-ranked large school in the St. Louis area, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Red Devils outlasted Althoff Catholic (12-4), the defending Illinois Class 3 state champion and top-ranked small school, by a score of 97-94 in the tournament championship game.
The contest featured two of the best players in the area, Chaminade shooting guard Jericole Hellems, who scored 47 points in the finale, and Althoff senior Jordan Goodwin, who poured in 42 points in a comeback effort that fell barely short.
Althoff trailed by as many as 13 points early in the game and by eight at the half. But the Crusaders were able to chip away at Chaminade’s advantage, taking the lead for the first time in the game with a little bit more than three minutes to play. The game was up for grabs until Hellems was able to sink a pair of clinching free throws in the final seconds. Hellems’ 47 broke the previous tournament single-game scoring record of 46 points which was set in the first year the event was held. Mike Jefferies, of Alton High School, held the previous mark since 1969.
The 191 points scored in the championship game added up to the highest-ever combined single-game score in tournament history.
Belleville East, which took Chaminade to overtime before losing 96-90 earlier in the tournament, beat Belleville West in a back-and-forth battle in the third-place game. Belleville West power forward E.J. Liddell scored 33 points in the third-place game while Belleville East’s Javon Pickett scored 30.
Alton beat St. Mary’s in the consolation game.
“There were several players in the tournament who have committed to play Division I basketball in college,” Larsen said. “It was a real treat for the fans to get to see them play against each other and they put on a spectacular display with their talents.”
Pickett, a senior shooting guard, has committed to play basketball at the University of Illinois in the fall. Althoff Catholic shooting guard Jordan Goodwin has committed to play at St. Louis University. Liddell, a sophomore power forward, is considered to be a four-star recruit and has several offers from Division I schools, including the University of Illinois and DePaul University. Hellems has received strong interest from several schools.
The all-tournament team was:
- Chaminade guard Jericole Hellems (MVP)
- Althoff Catholic guard Jordan Goodwin
- Belleville East guard Javon Pickett
- Belleville East guard EnRico Sylvester
- Belleville West forward E.J. Liddell
- Alton guard Kevin Caldwell
- Chaminade forward Karrington Davis
- Columbia guard Jordan Holmes
Larsen said the tournament was such a good time that he’s already looking forward to the 2018 edition.
“We’ve tried to add some high-quality teams over the last couple of years because it’s fun for the fans and it’s good for our teams to see that kind of competition as we reach the final month of the season and start thinking of the playoffs,” said Larsen. “We’re really excited about how it went.”