BELLEVILLE — Parity rules at the Class 4A Belleville West Regional.
O'Fallon (15-12) is the top seed, ahead of No. 2 Belleville East (18-9) and No. 3 East St. Louis (17-7). No. 4 Collinsville (12-16) and No. Belleville West (6-19) round out the field, which has grown from four teams to five, all in the Southwestern Conference.
Panthers coach Rick Gibson, whose team came out of nowhere as the No. 4 seed to win the O'Fallon Regional last season, doesn't put a lot of stock in being seeded first.
Gibson pointed out that the regional champion in each of the last three seasons was seeded last in four-team fields. In 2011, East St. Louis was the champion when O'Fallon was seeded first, followed by Belleville West in 2012 when Collinsville was No. 1. The Panthers extended the "tradition" last year.
"When we got the (No.) 1 seed, we were like, 'It's a good thing, but maybe it's a curse as well,'" Gibson said. "It's tough because you're playing teams for the third or possibly fourth time, so you know each other well. It's really about the team that gets hot and is playing well at that point.
"Home court has an advantage as well. Last year, being a fourth seed, we got to play on our home court, something that West gets to do this year. But with that fifth team (in the field), the (No.) 4 or 5 seed is going to have to win three games. That's tough. That brings a whole new element to this."
The regional begins at 7 p.m. Monday when Collinsville faces West. The Kahoks have defeated the Maroons twice this season. O'Fallon will meet the Collinsville-West winner at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
East, which has lost two of three to East St. Louis, will play the Flyers at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The East-East St. Louis winner will play O'Fallon, Collinsville or West for the championship at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Panthers are 2-0 against both semifinal opponents, although three of the games were tight. They defeated Collinsville 48-45 and 61-41 and West 78-74 and 56-52.
Junior Donovan Franklin averages 20 points to lead the Panthers, followed by junior Darien McClain at 11.4 points. McClain has a team-high 55 3-pointers. Senior Isaiah Armstrong has been a solid rebounder with 7.8 boards per game.
"We're a balanced team," Gibson said. "We have several kids that, offensively, have stepped up and done a good job for us this year. We've gotten better defensively and rebounding. Those were some issues we had earlier in the year that have gotten better for us."
East closed its regular season with a 57-36 loss to SWC champion Edwardsville on Friday. The Lancers split their final six games, but one of their wins was an 80-76 overtime thriller at Alton.
Senior Darreon Reddick averages 14 points to lead East. Seniors Cameron Hunter and Austin Cox each average 10.4 points. Reddick averages 2.7 steals and Cox averages 5.4 rebounds.
"We certainly don't want to come out and feel bad about ourselves," East coach Abel Schrader said after the loss to Edwardsville. "But we've had some losses (lately). I think our guys will battle back."
East lost to the Flyers 48-38 on Dec. 13 in East St. Louis. The Flyers defeated the Lancers 47-44 in the third-place game of the Collinsville-Schnucks Holiday Classic on Dec. 28. East finally defeated the Flyers 59-54 on Jan. 31 in Belleville.
"We've played East St. Louis three times, so we know a little bit about them," Schrader said. "We'll practice for them and see if we can improve on what we did (Friday) --hopefully.
"Up to this point, we've had a pretty darn good season with this team. We want to play a lot better. We know we play a very good team Wednesday. There's familiarity with East St. Louis. We know a little about them; they know a little about us. It's about who can play with intensity."
East St. Louis is on a five-game winning streak that began with a victory over Edwardsville and includes a win over O'Fallon. Seniors Darreon Beane (12.8 points) and Dominic Nelson (eight) lead the Flyers in scoring.
Class 4A Quincy Regional
Edwardsville is seeded first in the four-team regional at Quincy. The Tigers (25-2) will play fourth-seeded Granite City (2-24) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Edwardsville High.
In the other semifinal, second-seeded Alton (22-5) will meet third-seeded Quincy (14-11) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Quincy. The championship game will be at 7 p.m. Friday.
Edwardsville finished third in the Class 4A state tournament last year. Tigers seniors Armon Fletcher, averaging 17.9 points, and Shawn Roundtree, averaging 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds, are a formidable duo. They have legitimate players around them in seniors Trevor Clay, Darian Brown and Darius Crochrell.
But Alton also is a force, and the Redbirds handed the Tigers one of their losses, 59-56 on Jan. 17 in Edwardsville.
"Our guys like to play and they want to do well in the postseason," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "I'm sure they've been thinking about that for a while. The way to do well in the postseason is to practice good between now and Tuesday and try to do the best we can Tuesday night.
"We'll be ready to go. Every game is different; every game is a hard game. We want to do well Tuesday and hopefully we'll get in the final Friday."