Sophomore Makayla Best and junior Reyna Bullock connected on 3-point shots midway through the fourth quarter to help the O’Fallon Panthers hold off Belleville West 41-36 in a Southwestern Conference game Thursday.
Holding a narrow lead over Belleville East in the battle for second place in the SWC, O’Fallon (22-3, 9-2) appeared to have the game under control on senior night, building a 33-25 lead after three quarters.
But West, looking for its second win of the week after beating East St. Louis, rallied. A pair of baskets by sophomore Shaniah Nunn, followed by a 3-point jumper by junior Randi Goodwin, cut the Panthers’ lead to 39-36 with less than two minutes remaining.
West (6-17, 3-7) had a chance to close the gap, but following a missed opportunity, O’Fallon junior Ashley Schloer scored to increase the lead and clinch the win.
“We didn’t play that well. It was senior night, and we played a lot of seniors. But a ‘W’ is a ‘W,’ and we’ll take it,” O’Fallon coach Nick Knolhoff said. “Sometimes you just have to grind it out, and that’s what we did.
“Give Belleville West credit. They had a good game plan, and they stuck with it.”
Senior Jayla Stubblefield, playing her final home game at the Panther Dome, led O’Fallon with nine points. One of the top players in the SWC for the past three years, Stubblefield was one of four O’Fallon players to make 3-point shots in the second quarter to give her team the lead for good. Trailing 11-6 after one quarter, O’Fallon opened the second quarter with a 13-0 run and led 25-17 at halftime.
O’Fallon finished the night with seven 3-pointers.
Nunn had 12 points, while Goodwin added 11 and senior Brittney Walker added 10 for the Maroons, who have shown steady improvement throughout the season under veteran coach Clayton Fisher.
“Obviously we’re a much improved team than what we were early in the season,” Fisher said. “The biggest improvement is with our execution. We’re to the the point where we’re getting good shots. I think the girls have figured it out that the best way is to get the ball inside to Shaniah (Nunn).
“But I’m pleased with how we played. We let one get away the other night against Collinsville, but we played and won against East St. Louis. Tonight, we were in a one-possession game late against O’Fallon. We’re continuing to improve. That’s what I want to see.”