BELLEVILLE — Coach Joe Muniz was concerned that his Belleville West Maroons could be in store for a letdown Tuesday.
The Maroons, coming off a championship in the Vianney Invitational Tournament last week, didn't play as well as Muniz hoped but delivered a 75-55 victory over Granite City in their Southwestern Conference opener.
Senior Nick Van Osdale scored a game-high 23 points, senior Markkies Goodwin had 14 and senior Isaiah Lewis had 12 to lead West (4-0 overall, 1-0 SWC), which was 31-for-34 (91 percent) from the free-throw line.
"Absolutely, I was concerned, because I knew how good Granite City was," Muniz said. "I knew they were good and our kids knew that. Our kids respected them. They didn't take them lightly.
"But yeah, I was concerned coming in because you win a tournament like that --and the way we won it, how we won it and who we beat --you can get complacent. One of the things we want to show is consistency throughout the season."
Granite City coach Steve Roustio said he believed the Maroons might sputter, particularly after their emotional 53-52 come-from-behind win over Ladue that sealed the title. West opened the tourney with wins over Vianney and Hazelwood Central.
"I thought they would be a little flat," Roustio said. "Coming into their first conference game and maybe going against what I thought would be a better defense than they've seen, which it wasn't, I thought they would maybe struggle offensively, especially if we could just kind of contain Nick."
Instead, Roustio said the Warriors' defense was missing in action, allowing far too many layups. The 6-foot-3 Goodwin, for example, scored all of his points directly under the basket and was 7-for-9 from the field.
"We didn't guard anybody," Roustio said. "When they've got guards that just throw it up in the air and some kid just goes up and grabs it, comes back down and goes back up and lays it over the rim. ... You're not going to beat anybody doing that.
"I think I've got guys who can score, but until you can stop people over and over and over again ... I'm talking about four stops, six consecutive stops, seven consecutive stops."
Senior D.J. Owens added nine points for West, making three 3-pointers on five attempts.
The Maroons led just 50-43 when Granite City senior Devin Narvaez hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 5:47 to play. West then slammed the door, outscoring the Warriors (4-2, 1-1) 25-12 down the stretch.
Most of the damage was done from the line. The Maroons made 20 of their 23 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, with Van Osdale going 8-for-9 and Lewis 4-for-4.
"We didn't play great tonight, but we did what we needed to do," Muniz said. "The thing I'm a little disappointed in is Granite had a hard time scoring against our halfcourt defense, but they didn't have a hard time scoring after their missed shots. We need to do a better job rebounding."
The Maroons led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game, but Granite City grabbed a 17-14 lead in Narvaez's basket with 4:21 to play in the second quarter.
West regained a 20-17 lead, but Warriors senior Troy Garcia popped a 3-pointer that tied it at 20. The Maroons then closed the half with a 9-0 run to lead 29-20 at the break. They extended the run to 15-0 to start the third quarter on two baskets by Goodwin and a layup by Van Osdale.
The Warriors opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run to trim West's lead to 50-43, but the comeback fizzled and then died when a double-technical on senior Perry Grimes resulted in his ejection from the game with 1:55 left. Grimes also will be forced to sit out the game Friday at Alton.
West made five of six free throws after the technical to lead 69-52.
"I'll take (31-for-34) any night of the year," Muniz said. "Getting to the free-throw line that many times, we want to continue to do that. We've been doing a good job getting there 20-plus times the last four games, and that means we're attacking."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.