GRANITE CITY — Playing their first game in two weeks Friday night, the Granite City Warriors had plenty of energy and emotion in the first half.
But the Warriors went cold in the second half while Belleville West picked up its intensity and posted a 59-56 victory in a physical Southwestern Conference game.
"We knew they had two weeks of preparation for us, and they really came out fired up and played with a lot of energy (in the first half)," Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. "We just weathered the storm, and that's what we needed to do. We needed a 'W.'"
Granite City, which led by 13 points on four occasions in the second quarter, had just seven baskets in the second half and fell victim to a big performance by Maroons senior Nick Van Osdale.
Van Osdale scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 28 after not attempting a shot in the first quarter. His 30-foot 3-pointer to end the second quarter brought West within 33-25 at halftime.
"The first half was a struggle," said Van Osdale, who 8-for-14 from the field and 11-for-14 from the free-throw line. "They were playing great, making a lot of shots and playing good defense. I finally got one to drop and I think that gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half."
Senior Markkies Goodwin added 12 points and senior D.J. Owens had eight for the Maroons, who improved to 14-5 overall and 6-3 in the SWC. West, which committed 11 turnovers in the first half, finished with 15.
Senior Devin Narvaez led Granite City (9-9, 2-6) with 24 points, 17 in the first half. Senior Omar Walker had 18 points, 11 in the first half. No other Warrior had more than five points.
"What we've got to realize is if we're holding on to a lead ... they're not going to stop playing," Granite City coach Steve Roustio said. "They're going to play harder than they ever have. Belleville West played harder in the second half than they've ever played against us. Ever."
Narvaez, one of the most athletic players in the SWC, was a force on the boards in the first half with four putbacks that helped put the Warriors in control. But the Maroons tightened up their post defense in the second half and Narvaez was kept off the glass.
"There wasn't anybody who we could guard on their team," Muniz said of the first half. "We couldn't guard Walker off the dribble, then they would shoot a shot and Narvaez would get the rebound with no one around him.
"At halftime, we challenged our kids to step it up and match their intensity. Nick hitting that shot to get it down to a single-digit game helped going into the half."
Roustio downplayed Van Osdale's 3-pointer.
"We were still up eight and it was our ball coming out," he said. "And we scored (on our first possession)."
Junior Quentin Jackson's basket put Granite City ahead 37-27 with 6:52 left in the third quarter. West answered with a 15-4 run, culminated by four consecutive free throws by Van Osdale that gave it a 42-41 lead with 3:38 to play in the period.
The free throws followed a flagrant foul and a technical called against Warriors sophomore Darrell Miller.
The game was deadlocked at 49 after three quarters, but West went ahead for good at 55-49 by scoring the first six points of the fourth quarter: a 12-footer by Van Osdale, a short jumper in the lane by senior Isaiah Lewis and two free throws by Lewis.
Goodwin had a layup to put West ahead 58-53 with 1:21 to play in the game, but Narvaez popped a 3 to get the Warriors within 58-56. Senior Troy Garcia had a chance to tie the game, but missed two free throws with 35.8 seconds left.
Lewis then missed two free throws for the Maroons, and Granite City called timeout with 23.6 seconds remaining. After Van Osdale tipped a pass out of bounds, the Warriors had another chance with 8.4 seconds left.
Walker, however, was trapped outside the lane and double-dribbled with three seconds to play. Van Osdale was fouled with 1.8 seconds left and missed his first free throw before making his second attempt. Narvaez's desperation 3 was way short at the horn.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.