Belleville West coach Joe Muniz hoped his team wouldn’t look past O’Fallon on Friday in anticipation of its game against St. Louis power Webster Groves on Saturday in the finale of the fourth annual Bank of O’Fallon Shootout.
Muniz got the answer he was looking for as the Maroons pasted the Panthers 71-41 in a Southwestern Conference game before a large crowd.
“We haven’t talked about Webster Groves; we haven’t thought about Webster Groves,” insisted Muniz, whose club jumped to 19-2 overall and 9-0 in the SWC. “We’ve been worried about now. This was a big game, a conference game. We had to come out and establish ourselves, and I thought we did that.”
Senior Malachi Smith had 18 points, six assists and three steals to lead West. Junior EJ Liddell had 14 points and seven blocks, and junior Lawrence Brazil III had 14 points and four assists.
Junior Keith Randolph chipped in with nine points, and senior Curtis Williams led all players with seven rebounds as the Maroons won the battle on the boards 39-30.
Brazil, a 5-foot-11 guard, set the early tone, opening the game with a 3-pointer out of the corner and following up with another trey in the second quarter that put the Maroons ahead 22-10. West amassed a 37-18 lead at halftime and 58-33 after three quarters.
“Big 3s in the first half,” Muniz said of Brazil, who finished 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.
“Teams can’t take away everything from them,” said O’Fallon coach Brian Muniz, Joe’s brother. “If those guys shoot it (well), you’re going to have a hard time stopping them.”
The Maroons shot 49 percent from the field (25 of 51) and 82 percent from the free-throw line (14 of 17). Defensively, the Maroons allowed a game-high 19 points by Panthers senior star Jalen Hodge, who this week received an offer from Louisiana-Monroe.
“He’s able to score so many different ways,” Muniz said of his star. “Even tonight when they pretty much took all his layups away by being able to block shots, he still got his points. He didn’t start the game off well, but once he settled in ... He played 28 minutes straight, and we needed all 28.”
Other than Hodge, no other O’Fallon player scored more than seven points. The Panthers (9-12, 4-5) shot a paltry 28 percent (15 of 53), including 17 percent on 3-pointers (4 of 24).
West led 15-7 after O’Fallon senior Ronnie Anthony scored with 7:09 to play in the second quarter. The Maroons then went on a 9-3 run to move ahead 24-10, a drive culminated by Randolph’s layup off a Panthers turnover in the frontcourt.
Nine different players scored for the Maroons.
“We practiced all week on sharing the ball,” said Smith, a Wright State recruit. “It was our mind-set to get the ball to everybody, just move it around.”
Joe Muniz agreed.
“I thought we were really good offensively — moving the ball, sharing the ball,” Muniz said. “We didn’t shoot it particularly well; we’ve been shooting the ball better.
“And I thought we did a better job guarding Hodge in the second half, making him work a little bit. He’s really good. The thing about him, if you give him a little bit of space, he takes it.”
Joe Muniz improved to 4-0 in games against Brian Muniz, who is in his second season. The coaches’ parents, Paul and Mary Lee, sat opposite the West bench and observed the action.
“It’s old hat. It’s Belleville West vs. O’Fallon,” Joe Muniz said. “That’s how it’s been all the time. I know how hard he works. I know how good of a coach he is. His kids play hard, and they’ve won some good games this year. They keep getting better. When we’re not playing them, I’m wishing him the best.
“The first game (last year), I’m not going to lie — it was different just because you care about each other, and you want to see your team succeed. But at the same time, you don’t want to see his team not succeed.”
Brian Muniz said: “Playing Joe, it doesn’t make any difference to his team or my team. They’re just out there trying to compete and play as well as possible.”
Whitfield 58, Pinckneyville 57
Pinckneyville led 38-21 in the first half, but Missouri recruit Torrence Watson scored 15 consecutive points to get Whitfield within 38-36 at halftime.
The Warriors (17-7) took the lead with 2:22 to play on junior Luther Taylor’s two free throws. Pinckneyville (18-3) held the ball for the next 2:19, but senior Grant Jausel’s lean-in jumper in the waning seconds caromed off the rim and bounced away as time expired.
Watson finished with 40 points.
“My teammates just kept looking for me,” said Watson, who was 16 of 27 from the field and made five 3-pointers. “I was hitting shots. It was just a great win and a great team effort.”
Decatur MacArthur 76, Jennings 71, 2 OT
Senior Armon Brummett broke loose for 34 points, and twin brother Amir Brummett pumped in 22 as the Generals outlasted the Warriors, despite missing at least 20 shots in the lane.
It was the eighth consecutive victory for MacArthur (15-7).
Jennings (19-3) got 19 points from senior Terran Jackson, senior Kyle Young and junior Elijah Hicks.