West erupts in second half, upsets East

News-DemocratJanuary 28, 2014 

Macaroons players Brian Hill and Eugene Jones talk about their upset victory over Belleville East on Tuesday night.

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— Perhaps no team in the Southwestern Conference was in greater need of a feel-good moment than Belleville West.

The Maroons basked in the high-water mark of their season Tuesday night when they upset visiting Belleville East 58-51 to snap an eight-game losing streak that dated to Dec. 27.

West (4-13 overall, 2-6 SWC), offensively challenged all season, scored 43 points in the second half, wiping out a 21-15 deficit at the break and pushing the Lancers off Cloud 9.

"We've been through a lot of stuff during the season. We really wanted this win," Maroons senior Brian Hill said. "We've been through a lot of hard losses over the past two weeks. We wanted to come out and prove ourselves and shut up the non-believers."

Senior Steven Roberts led the Maroons with 15 points, eight of them coming on fourth-quarter free throws. Junior Eugene Jones scored nine of his 11 points in the second half and Hill finished with nine points, all of them in the second half.

The Maroons, who trailed by five in the third quarter, took the lead for good at 40-39 on Roberts' basket with 7:14 to play. West maintained control by going 12-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 19-for-25 overall.

"We played awfully well," said Maroons coach Joe Muniz, whose team lost 52-32 at East on Dec. 17. "What I'm more proud of is the perseverance these kids have shown all season long. They're just wanting to get better and get better."

Few in the gym could have seen it coming. The Maroons were routed 63-45 by McCluer on Saturday in the fifth-place game of the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East. The Lancers (13-6, 4-2), meanwhile, won the tournament with a 70-60 victory over Althoff, lifting their winning streak to six.

But the magic was gone against the Maroons as the Lancers struggled to negotiate a box-and-one West employed against senior Darreon Reddick and a two-three zone.

"This team's a wounded dog," East coach Abel Schrader said of West. "You play against a wounded dog and you better bring your best effort. I give credit to them. They outplayed us not necessarily in the entire game, but the hustle points, the 50-50 balls, the offensive rebounds, we didn't get and they did.

"They wanted it more. They've played a lot of good teams tough; they just couldn't get over the hump. Tonight, they did. Does it surprise me? No, I knew we were going to have our hands full tonight."

Senior Cameron Hunter led the Lancers with 18 points. Reddick, the most valuable player of the Chick-fil-A Classic, had 16.

The Lancers had six turnovers in the first quarter and trailed 7-6 at its conclusion. But they outscored the Maroons 15-8 in the second quarter to build their six-point lead.

East led 26-17 when freshman EnRico Sylvestor Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 6:52 to play in the third quarter. The Lancers were still in control at 31-24 when Reddick scored off a Maroons turnover.

West closed the third quarter with an 11-6 drive that pulled it within 37-35 heading into the fourth period.

Perhaps providing a sign of things to come, West senior Cade Dibadj banked in a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, putting the Maroons ahead 38-37 and injecting some confidence.

Reddick responded with a driving basket to put East on top by one, but West scored the next eight points to lead 46-39. Jones' baseline drive with 5:02 culminated the spree.

The Lancers got within 46-44 on a 3-pointer by senior Domonic Blaylock. West, however, went back up by four when freshman Tyler Dancy, who made his first start, scored in the lane.

East got within two on one other occasion, only to see the Maroons go on a 7-2 uprising that pushed them over the top. West finished 12-for-19 from the field in the second half.

"The kids played with extreme confidence," Muniz said. "We needed something like this. These kids needed to experience some success, because you would like to get some fruits for your hard labor. Today, I'm proud of them."

East told a different story.

"Basketball humbles you very quickly," Schrader said. "We felt really good about ourselves and the way we played Saturday and throughout the tournament. ... When you play a wounded dog, you're going to get their best effort. They were due to win, and it just so happened it was us."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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