Belleville West junior EJ Liddell and senior Malachi Smith were obvious picks for the 75th annual Centralia Holiday Tournament all-tournament team.
Less obvious but no-less deserving was forward Keith Randolph, who made neither the first- or second-team list despite his contributions to the Maroons’ tournament championship.
Randolph tied Liddell with a tournament-best 30 rebounds, including 17 under the offensive glass. He had 12-point, 11-rebound double-double in a semifinal win over conference rival Alton.
“We have nothing to do with the all-tournament team, but he’s all-tournament in my book,” said West head coach Joe Muniz. “He played with such energy. I feel safe in speaking for Keith, however, that he’s happier bringing home the big trophy than he would have been with all-tournament honors.”
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And Randolph wasn’t at his physical best all week. As his Maroons’ teammates took the floor for warmups prior to the championship game against Champaign Central Saturday, Randolph went straight to the bench with a cup of water. He hung his head and rubbed his temples, prompting a short conference from Muniz.
He confessed only after the game that he’d been fighting flu-like symptoms.
“I wasn’t feeling 100 percent coming out and I think I might have a bug or something,” Randolph said. “I felt good enough, though.”
Still, the 6-foot-5, 242-pound junior was an important presence inside the paint for the Maroons, whose size and physicality were challenged throughout the tournament, particularly by Confluence Academy in the quarterfinal game and Champaign Central in the title contest.
Randolph scored 12 points against Champaign Central, eight on second-chance buckets. He sparked a 9-2 third-quarter run when he stole the ball and drove more than half the length of the court for an easy layup.
Muniz says Randoph’s high-moter, lead-by-example style has been a key element to the 12-1 Maroons’ success this season.
“His motor gets our motor going. He’s the gasoline to our vehicle,” said Muniz. “Things turned for us (Saturday) when he ripped the ball away from a guy, took it the length of the floor and got a layup. All of the sudden our energy picked up and it had to do with him.
“He’s a junk-yard dog. He does the dirty work without getting a whole lot of praise.”
On the year, Randoph is averaging 9.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He had a season-best 17 points in a victory over East St. Louis Dec. 15 and has twice pulled down 12 rebounds.
With 38 tackles, he also was among leaders on the West football team.
Randoph hasn’t yet decided which sport he’ll pursue in college.
“I have some interest in both sports, but haven’t decided which way I want to go yet,” he said.