BELLEVILLE — Belleville West was feeling optimistic about its chances of an upset Friday night.
But in the blink of an eye, the East St. Louis Flyers stole the Maroons' good vibes, turning a 29-19 deficit into a 54-40 victory in a Southwestern Conference game.
East Side changed the complexion with a 21-0 run over a 9-minute, 10-second stretch that gave it a 40-29 lead with 5:22 to play in the game. The Flyers outscored West 35-13 in the second half.
"They came out and caught us flat," Flyers coach Tony Young said of the Maroons' sizzling start, which included 11-for-16 shooting from the field in the first half. "They had some backdoors, some easy buckets. They made some easy shots.
"At the end of the day, you have to make adjustments. We came into halftime and made some adjustments. We tried to take away a couple of things and make them earn all their buckets. We wanted to make them earn every shot."
Senior Dominic Nelson led the Flyers (6-2 overall, 2-1 SWC) with 12 points. Freshman Jeremiah Tilmon had 11, sophomore Karon Randolph had nine and junior Terry Beckner had eight.
Tilmon put East Side ahead to stay with a basket in the lane that made it 30-29 with 1:34 to play in the third quarter.
The Flyers capitalized on five turnovers by West in the period, and the Maroons' shooting turned frigid with a 1-for-7 showing.
"I didn't think we handled their pressure the way we wanted to," Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. "Everything we did in the first half, we were attacking. When they started attacking us defensively, we got on our heels."
Junior Eugene Jones led West (2-5, 1-3) with 11 points --nine in the first half. Senior Steven Roberts had eight points.
Senior Kyle Sweeney closed the first half with a layup and a 3-pointer that put the Maroons ahead by eight.
Roberts' layup with 7:04 to play in the third quarter gave the Maroons their 29-19 lead. After senior Darrion Beane scored for East Side, the Flyers recorded three consecutive steals that led to baskets.
Nelson's steal and layup made it 29-23, and Beane followed with a steal and dunk that made it 29-25. Senior Justin Smith then had a steal and fed Beane for a basket brought East Side within two.
After a free throw by the 6-foot-9 Tilmon trimmed the Maroons' lead to 29-28, Tilmon knocked in the door with the go-ahead hoop.
But the Flyers didn't stop.
Randolph then had a steal and a layup, which was duplicated by Smith. Tilmon closed the third quarter with a dunk, putting the Flyers ahead 36-29.
Beckner and Randolph hit shots to open the fourth quarter, culminating the 21-point outburst.
"We played hard in the second half," Young said. "We had active hands and were smart enough to not foul and do silly stuff. We were able to get inside and our guards made the right plays at the right time. We've got to continue to get better game by game. We took a big step toward getting better defensively."
The Flyers, who were 8-for-22 from the field in the first half, were 14-for-19 in the second half to finish 22-for-41 (54 percent). West, after missing just five shots in the first half, was 4-for-19 in the second half and finished 15-for-35 (43 percent).
"The problem I'm having is we've got to score more than two points in a quarter," Muniz said of the third-period meltdown. "We've just got to do a better job. ... Right now, we're playing with every team for a half. We've got to do a better job being tougher. We got back on our heels, and when you get back on your heels, nothing good can happen."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.