O'FALLON — The Belleville West Maroons got the win, but the way they played certainly didn't please coach Clayton Fisher.
Shay Fluker scored 21 points, including four in the final minute and 55 seconds, to help the Belleville West Maroons turn back the O'Fallon Panthers 53-48 Friday in a Southwestern Conference girls game.
"That was the worst game I've had the basketball team play for me in the last six years," said Fisher, whose team improved to 7-3 overall, 4-1 in the SWC. "I'm very disappointed with a lot of things with our team, and most of it is mental. We have some girls who are just not concentrating on the game of basketball, and we're still winning.
"They think that winning is all that matters. They're just not playing good basketball. We played a very good game our last outing versus Althoff, and this game, we stunk up the gym. O'Fallon, by all rights, should have beat us."
The Panthers took the lead for the first time since the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Ciara Jones with 3:07 left in the fourth quarter.
The Maroons regained the lead quickly on a basket by Imani Berry and then went up 47-44 on a basket in the lane by Fluker.
After the Panthers committed a turnover, the Maroons increased their lead to 49-44 on a layup by Fluker with 1:02 to go.
O'Fallon got two free throws from Blair Butler with 49 seconds left and two free throws from Jasmine Bonds with 29 seconds left to draw within 49-48.
West's Jasmine Berry made the first of two free throws with 21 seconds left. She missed the second, but Fluker got the rebound and missed the putback.
"The one thing that O'Fallon can do really well, and we talked about this before the game, is shoot free throws," Fisher said of the Panthers going 24-for-31 from the free-throw line. "They're an excellent free-throw shooting team, and we continually reached and hacked, and it about cost us the game."
The Panthers ended up with the ball, but stepped out of bounds with 16 seconds on the clock.
The Maroons got a free throw from Alliyah St. John with 15 seconds remaining and the Panthers committed another turnover with eight seconds to go.
O'Fallon had three turnovers in the final 1:43 of the game.
"Those are the turnovers that are magnified because they're at the end of a tight game," O'Fallon coach Ryan Massey said. "They definitely don't outshine what could possibly be 30 turnovers. We had a lot of opportunities.
"We had a couple of breakaways that we didn't make, we had a couple of breakaways where we didn't catch the ball, the simple fundamentals of the game. I'm proud of the girls. They came out and they played hard, but we have to execute with the ball in our hands."
Berry hit a basket at the buzzer to provide the final margin.
The Panthers dropped to 2-6 overall, 1-5 in the SWC.
"There are so many things that come to mind," Massey said. "There is not a single possession that lost this game for us. It's a combination of a bunch of turnovers and a bunch of missed block outs."
Massey feels like the Panthers are making great strides.
"My girls came out and played hard and with a lot of heart and a lot of fight," Massey said. "Belleville West might be second in our league right now, and they're a very good basketball team.
"This is a young team and now that we've had one of these close games, maybe we'll grow from this and we'll learn from this. That's what I am looking for."
Bonds was the leading scorer for the Panthers with 21 points. Athena Eccher and Butler added eight points and Ally Warren had seven.
The Maroons also got 14 points from Berry and 10 points from Jesheon Cooper, who fouled out with 3:47 left.
The Panthers led 6-4 after a layup by Butler, but the Maroons ended the first quarter on an 8-0 run.
Both teams were plagued by turnovers in the first quarter, but the problem intensified for the Panthers after the Maroons went to a full-court press.
The Panthers committed 10 turnovers in the opening period. The Maroons committed six.
The Maroons went up 12-6 on a layup by Berry with two seconds left in the first quarter, and two 3-pointers from Fluker enabled them to stretch that advantage to 21-11 in the second quarter.
The Panthers managed to reduce their deficit to 23-17 by halftime thanks to a rebound basket by Warren with 12 seconds left in the second quarter and two free throws by Butler with five seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers closed the gap to three points, but then fell back by nine points in the third quarter. They started the fourth quarter trailing by seven points after a basket by Berry at the end of the third quarter.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.