BETHALTO — The old adage that defense wins championships rang partly true for the East St. Louis Flyers on Friday in the title game of the Class 3A Civic Memorial Regional.
On this night, everything was working as the Flyers rolled to a 67-40 win over Marquette.
Senior Daniel Williams sparked the East St. Louis offense with two second quarter 3-point baskets, 6-foot-5 240-pound Johnny McCray dominated in the post and senior Deshawn Munson posted a triple-double with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists as East St. Louis recorded its 16th win in its last 17 games.
The regional title is the first for Flyers coach Tony Young, who continues to get the most out of his team and is having the time of his life doing it.
"These are good kids. They listen and they've done everything I've asked of them so far this year. I'm having the best time in the world right now coaching these guys,'' Young said. "That's starting to come out in our play. The kids are having fun, they have bought into the system and defensively they are understanding what it is they have to do.''
With Munson sitting out the final 6 minutes of the second quarter after picking up his second foul, the 6-3 Williams hit a pair of 3-point shots and combined with McCray to score nine of the Flyers 14 points as East St. Louis took a 25-16 lead over the Explorers at halftime.
Marquette (21-9) would get no closer the rest of the night. The Explorers had 14 turnovers and were just 8-of-35 from the field through three quarters.
With the win East St. Louis (20-7) advances to the Class 3A Mascoutah Sectional where it will play Centralia at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Orphans (21-8) advanced on Friday with a 42-39 win over Effingham at the Centralia Regional.
Trailing just 11-10 after one quarter, Marquette took its second and final lead of the night at 12-11 when Jake Coddington scored to open the second period.
But Williams followed with a 3-point shot, Joe Cook scored on an offensive rebound and following an Explorer turnover, Williams hit his second 3-point shot as the Flyers lead grew to 19-12.
Travon McCray then banged home a 3-point shot to complete the first of two 11-point Flyers scoring runs as East St. Louis took a 22-12 lead.
The Flyers defense was relentless in the first two quarters as it forced Marquette to speed up its tempo and commit costly turnovers.
East St. Louis led 25-16 at halftime.
"Marquette's a good team and they played hard all night. You have to give them credit for that,'' Young said. "I thought we did a good job of putting pressure on the basketball. You have to do that every night.
"When you put pressure on the basketball, you take teams out of their comfort zone and make them do things they don't want to do. It was a good effort, but we've still got to continue to work hard and keep improving.''
Marquette coach Steve Medford, however, was anything but pleased with the effort shown by his team.
The Explorers seemed to back off and were clearly a bit intimidated by the athletic Flyers.
"This isn't Class 2A, this is Class 3A. It's one thing to show an effort when you're playing Roxana and you're down 17 points,'' Medford said. "East St. Louis is a very athletic and talented team. I was just disappointed that we didn't show more fight.''
The Flyers put the game away with an 11-0 to start the third quarter. McCray scored three of his 12 points on a free throw and offensive putback and Williams, who added 17 points, nailed another 3-point shot.
Travon McCray then scored on a drive and Munson added a short jumper and free throw.
East St. Louis led 36-16 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.