West rolls past Vashon in season opener

News-DemocratDecember 2, 2013 

KIRKWOOD, Mo. --Belleville West's first game of the season did little to alleviate coach Joe Muniz's concerns about the absence of a go-to scorer.

But the Maroons lived up to Muniz's expectations on defense in a 55-31 victory over Vashon in the Vianney Invitational.

Twelve different players scored for West (1-0), led by senior Cole Henke, who had 11 of his 13 points in the second half. The Maroons forced the Wolverines (0-4) into 30 turnovers.

"That's how we're going to win games," Muniz said. "I thought we guarded very well. ... For a lot of these guys --like I told them in the locker room --that's their first time playing major, major minutes other than Kyle Sweeney and Cole Henke and Brian Hill.

"So I thought it was good. The one thing we preached all preseason long is defense is always going to be a constant. Shooting will come and go, and tonight we didn't shoot the ball well. But I was very proud of how we guarded and rebounded."

West, seeded third, advanced to the semifinals and will play second-seeded Hazelwood Central (1-0) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Maroons won the tournament last year.

The Maroons shot 46 percent from the field (22-for-48) against Vashon, but struggled on 3-pointers, going 3-for-15. The free-throw line was also a train wreck, where West went 8-for-25.

But the sixth-seeded Wolverines (0-4) had greater difficulty. They had three baskets and 18 turnovers at halftime, which ended with the Maroons on top 26-7.

Vashon climbed within 35-20 early in the fourth quarter before West pulled away with a 12-3 run that made it 47-23. The 6-foot-4 Henke had six points in the surge.

"We shot it rough; we didn't shoot it very well," Henke said. "But we came in focusing on defense. That's what we've been working on in practice a lot. We know we have to be a defensive team to win games this year. We won this game with our defense."

Henke doesn't believe it will be a "winning ugly" scenario.

"We're going to look good on defense, and the offense will work itself out," he said. "We've got guys who can make shots. Maybe it was some first-game nerves.

"All the turnovers helped, but we're also not focusing just on getting turnovers. We're looking at keeping guys in front of us and keeping them from scoring."

Senior Steven Roberts was the Maroons' second-leading scorer with seven points.

West never was threatened. Sweeney, a senior, had a basket and a 3-pointer in the first two minutes to make it 5-0. Junior Demond White also hit a 3-pointer in the period as the Maroons led 8-0 heading into the second quarter.

The Maroons used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to make it 20-4, and their lead grew to a game-high 27 points late in the fourth quarter.

"We'll get back to the gym tomorrow and work at it," Muniz said. "This is a great bunch of guys. They work hard every day at practice. We told them Rome was not built in a day, and this is going to be a season of progressions. I think our guys will steadily improve as time goes on.

"Sometimes I thought we were a deer in headlights tonight. That's not to make excuses, but that's how we played. So we just need to let the game come to us and slow things down."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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