O'FALLON — D.J. Owens was hotter on Friday night than he's ever been before.
Owens hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 23 points in leading the Belleville West Maroons over the O'Fallon Panthers 64-56.
"The most I've ever hit before was three," the 5-foot-8 senior said of his 3-point barrage. "It was pretty big. Usually when I hit the first one, the rest of them are going to fall. They just kept coming, and if I'm open, I'm going to shoot."
The Panthers came out in a zone defense in effort to contain West's Nick Van Osdale, but Van Osdale kept driving to the basket and then dishing back out to a wide-open Owens.
"Me and Nick always talk about it," Owens said. "He does it every game. He drives and draws so much attention that he just kicks it to me and I'm open. It's pretty much a play. It's like a known play that we always do."
Van Osdale had 16 points, Isaiah Lewis had 12 points and Markkies Goodwin had nine for the Maroons, who improved to 6-2 overall, 3-2 in the Southwestern Conference.
"Tonight, O'Fallon did a good job of taking away Nick," West coach Joe Muniz said. "They put a lot of emphasis on where he was cutting. He had one or two defenders there. I thought our guys did a great job of moving the basketball from side to side, making their zone shift.
"More importantly, D.J. stepped up to open areas and we were finding him. Our post players were unselfish, we kicked it out a couple of times. If you play us zone, we have some guys who can shoot the ball besides Nick. Tonight, Nick did a good job of finding D.J."
The Panthers, who lost their sixth straight and dropped to 3-7 overall, 0-5 in the SWC, were led by Donovan Franklin with 21 points and Todd Porter with 18.
"When you play West, it's no secret you have focus on Van Osdale," O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. "He probably finished with one of his lower point totals of the year. But, the sign of a good team, someone else steps up. They are not one-dimensional, and they showed that."
The Panthers fought back from an eight-point deficit to take a 45-44 lead on long 3-pointer from Franklin with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Maroons got the ball into Goodwin for a layup to regain the lead at the buzzer ending the third quarter, and then scored the first three baskets of the fourth quarter to go up 53-45.
"We do this thing in practice where we have to get stop, score, stop or score, stop, score," Muniz said. "And, I told them, 'This is what the game is going to come down to. We are up by one, and we need to be up by three or four after the first two possessions of the fourth quarter. We did a good job of that."
Van Osdale scored inside to extend the Maroons' advantage to 58-47.
That basket capped a 13-2 run by the Maroons that also included two 3s from Owens.
"It was turnovers," Gibson said. "We're not a team that can necessarily get down that many points. We have to battle, and we did battle a couple of times. We got on top there, but it was just a few turnovers here and there.
"Where we are right now, we have to put 32 solid minutes together. We were closer today, but it wasn't 32 minutes. Until we do that, we're going to have a hard time."
Two free throws from Franklin and two free throws from Porter got the Panthers within 60-53 with 1:32 left, but that's as close as they would get.
The Maroons took a couple of ill-advised shots late in the game, but they still managed to keep the Panthers at bay.
"The only thing that I was displeased with is that we had an 11-point lead with two minutes to go in the game, and I did not like how we finished the game," Muniz said. "That's untypical for us. Hopefully, we'll learn from our mistakes because that could bite us in the long run."
Goodwin scored six points in the first quarter in leading the Maroons out to a 17-9 lead.
Porter drove into the lane and banked in a short shot with six seconds left in the first quarter to trim the Panthers' deficit to 17-11.
O'Fallon kept coming, eventually closing the gap to 29-28 and having a couple of shots in the final seconds of the first half that would have given it the lead if either had fallen.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.