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Game by game, the Maroons won their way to history

Belleville West celebrates its 60-56 victory over Whitney Young during Saturday's IHSA Class 4A state championship game.
Belleville West celebrates its 60-56 victory over Whitney Young during Saturday's IHSA Class 4A state championship game. Special to the News-Democrat

Thirty-four games, a school-record 32 victories, their first final four in 52 years and an IHSA state championship for the first time in 101 years of Belleville Township High School basketball history.

Here's how the Maroons did it, step-by-step, game-by-game, from their Nov. 21 win over Pekin to their championship triumph over defending 4A champion Whitney Young:

NOV. 21, 2017

Maroons 87, Pekin 42 (1-0)

EJ Liddell, Cameron Clark and Lawrence Brazil III reached double figures in a dominating win to tip off West's historic season at the Washington, Illinois Tournament of Champions.

NOV. 22, 2017

Maroons 85, College Park, Texas 65 (2-0)

Back at the Tournament of Champions, Liddell scored 35 points with eight rebounds in an impressive win. Keith Randolph recorded his first double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Malachi Smith did the same with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

NOV. 24, 2017

Maroons 75, Montgomery (Alabama) Carver 65 (3-0)

West built a nine-point lead in the first quarter, then hung on for another win in Washington. Liddell scored 30 with 14 rebounds. Brazil scored 16 with three steals and Smith scored 13.

NOV. 25, 2017

Sam Houston (Texas) MS&T 84, Maroons 74 (3-1)

The marquee game of the Tournament of Champions gave West its first loss. Liddell had 28 with 12 boards, but Sam Houston's Kendric Davis scored 30. Davis has committed to Texas Christian University.

DEC. 2, 2017

Maroons 67, Edwardsville 43 (4-1)

Back in the metro-east, West opened Southwestern Conference play with eventual second-place finisher Edwardsville. The game was the main event of the three-game SWC at SIUE event held at Vadalabene Center. Malachi Smith's 20 points led to a victory that set off a string of 15 wins in a row.

DEC. 5, 2017

Maroons 71, Granite City 50 (5-1)

West went into halftime with a 22-point lead and cruised from there. Liddell and Smith scored 22 and 18 respectively to lead West, which shot 24 of 48 from the field.

DEC. 8, 2017

Maroons 64, Belleville East 37 (6-1)

The game was Malachi Smith's first at East since transferring from there for his senior year. With the Lancers student section taunting him with chants of "traitor, traitor" and snake-like hisses, Smith scored a game-high 21 points.

DEC. 15, 2017

Maroons 80, East St. Louis 64 (7-1)

Terrance Hargrove Jr. scored 21 for East Side, but West got double figures from three players. Liddell scored 30 with eight rebounds, Smith scored 22 and Keith Randolph scored 17. The Maroons shot 67.5 percent from the field in the game.

DEC. 19, 2017

Maroons 72, O'Fallon 50 (8-1)

West ran its conference record perfect by bursting ahead to a 28-point lead at the end of the third quarter. O'Fallon's all-state senior scored 19 points, but Liddell answered with 26.

DEC. 28, 2017

Maroons 81, Collierville (Tennessee)43 (9-1)

After a long break, the Maroons were back in action at the 75th Centralia Holiday Tournament. Liddell and Smith scored 17 each, while Lawrence Brazil III pitched in 15 to put West in the winner's bracket.

DEC. 29, 2017

Maroons 65, Confluence Academy 63 (10-1)

Malachi Smith scored on a layup with 1.7 seconds left to break a 63-63 tie and give West a hard-fought win. The Maroons had worked on the prepared play all week, giving Smith the option to kick the ball outside to Liddell or take it to the rim himself. Liddell was double teamed. Neither team had lost since the Washington Tournament of Champions. It was the first game the Maroons had won by less than 16 points.

DEC. 30, 2017

Maroons 72, Alton 53 (11-1)

In the Centralia semifinals, Liddell and Smith scored 22 apiece while Randolph added 11 with 12 rebounds. The loss was just the second on the season for Alton. The win sent the Maroons to the title game for the second year in a row.

DEC. 30, 2017

Maroons 62, Champaign Central 61 (12-1)

Senior guard Curtis Williams' reverse layup with 22 seconds left put West up by four points, but proved to be the game winner as eventual All-State first teamers EJ Liddell and Tim Finke battled for the tournament title. Finke finished with 21 points, but Liddell wrapped up the tournament MVP. Over four games, he averaged 21.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and blocked 17 shots. Malachi Smith also was a first-team all-tournament pick with 17.5 points per game. It was the Maroons first tournament victory in Centralia since 2003.

JAN. 5, 2018

Maroons 65, Alton 40 (13-1)

Smith scored 19 and Liddell had 10 rebounds to start the Maroons off right in the second half of the conference season.

JAN. 6, 2018

Maroons 68, Poplar Bluff 51 (14-1)

At the Highland Shootout, West faced another Missouri team. The Maroons took a two-point lead into a 20-5 run ahead of halftime to pick up the victory. Dominique Hardimon led all scorers with 27 points, while Liddell came up just short at 26. But it was Liddell's nine blocked shots that turned the game.

JAN. 12, 2018

Maroons 67, Collinsville 56 (15-1)

West held a 27-point lead at the half, but Collinsville made things interesting with a 22-6 rally in the fourth quarter. Ray'Sean Taylor led the Kahoks with 16 points. Three for the Maroons reached double figures with Smith's 18 leading the way.

JAN. 16, 2018

Maroons 85, Althoff 60 (16-1)

Althoff, which two years later captured the city's first state basketball tournament, challenged the Maroons early with a 16-15 first-quarter lead. But Liddell finished with 24 points, Keith Randolph had 16 and Jaylin Mosby scored 12 to bring West back. It was the Maroons 14th win in a row.

JAN. 19, 2018

Maroons 70, Champaign Central 56 (17-1)

This rematch lacked some of the drama of the Centralia Holiday Tournament Championship game. West took a 12-point lead it would never relinquish. Tim Finke led all scorers with 24 for Central, but Smith scored 21 to lead West, which also got 16 from Liddell and 14 from Randolph.

JAN. 20, 2018

Chaminade 81, Maroons 77 (17-2)

Chaminade won it's second straight Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East and, in doing so, put a halt to the Maroons' 15-game winning streak. Jericole Hellems, a North Carolina State recruit scored 19 points for the Red Devils. The overtime loss was West's second of the year. Coach Joe Muniz would say after the Maroons' state championship win, that the loss proved to be a catalyst for the remainder of the year. "The Chaminade defeat was so good for us," he said. "I'm not sure we win this game ... I'm not sure we're here if we don't lose to Chaminade." The Maroons didn't lose again.

JAN. 26, 2018

Maroons 82, Edwardsville 53 (18-2)

Junior Jaylin Mosby had his best game of the season with a team-high 18 points to go with five rebounds. EJ Liddell scored 16 points and 14 rebounds. Edwardsville's Jack Marinko, an all-state selection by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, scored 28 including six 3-pointers.

FEB. 2, 2018

Maroons 71, O'Fallon 41 (19-2)

Malachi Smith shot 6 for 8 from the field on his way to a team-best 18 points. Lawrence Brazil III and EJ Liddell scored 14 each. Jalen Hodge, another all-state pick on the Maroons schedule, scored 19 to lead O'Fallon.

FEB. 3, 2018

Maroons 78, Webster Grove 67 (20-2)

West closed out its schedule of non-Illinois opponents with an 11-pont win. It was the tighest margin of victory the Maroons would experience until the state championship game. Liddell led the way with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Smith scored 18.

FEB. 9, 2018

Maroons 73, East St. Louis 54 (21-2)

Liddell recorded a double-double for the second game in a row with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both game-highs. Smith pitched in 19 in the win.

FEB. 13, 2018

Maroons 82, Belleville East 54 (22-2)

West rallied ahead to a 22 point lead before the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Smith's 23 points was tops among four Maroons in double figures. Liddell had 16, Brazil scored 15 and Curtis Williams scored 13.

FEB. 16, 2018

Maroons 70, Collinsville 38 (23-2)

West clinched its first outright Southwestern Conference title since 2004. Seven players scored for the Maroons and all five starters reached double figures. Smith and Liddell had 16 each, Mosby and Brazil had 11 apiece and Randolph scored 10.

FEB. 20, 2018

Maroons 82, Alton 55 (24-2)

Malik Smith scored 24 and Kevin Caldwell scored 15 for Alton, which played the Maroons to within eight points at halftime. But West rallied to an 18-point lead by the end of the third quarter. Brazill, Liddell and Smith each scored 17 points in the win.

FEB. 23, 2018

Maroons 100, Granite City 44 (25-2)

The Maroons capped the regular season with their only offensive effort that topped the century mark. Liddell and Smith scored 19 each, with Brazil pitching in 13, and Jaylin Mosby and Curtis Williams with 10 each. Four others scored as well. West finished the season with a perfect conference record.


Maroons 69, Belleville East 52 (26-2)

Liddell was a perfect 7 for 7 from the field and was 12 of 14 from the free throw line to score a game-high 27 points. Brizell pitched in 16 to send the Maroons to the regoinal championship game.


Maroons 68, Edwardsville 44 (27-2)

Jack Marinko put 28 points on the Maroons for the second time in as many games by hitting 6 of 11 from three-point range. But West rallied back from a 15-10 first quarter deficit to take a 28-21 halftime lead it would never give up. Liddell led the way with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Brazil scored 20, Smith scored 12 and Curtis Williams pitched in 11. The victory wrapped up the Maroons' second straight regional championship.


Maroons 66, Quincy 33 (28-2)

On a neutral Alton High School court, West led by 20 at the end of the first quarter and by 30 by halftime. The Maroons' defense held Quincy to just 13 field goals in the game. Liddell scored 20, Smith scored 17 and Randolph pitched in 12 in the victory.


Maroons 67, Moline 47 (29-2)

West was in unfamiliar territory, knotted in a 20-20 tie with Moline late in the second quarter. But in a span of 48 seconds, the Maroons' righted themselves on 3-pointers by juniors EJ Liddell and Lawrence Brazil III. The Maroons stetched the lead to 19 points in the third quarter. Brazil finished with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead the way for West. Liddell scored 16, while Randolph paired 12 rebounds with his nine points. For West, it was the first sectional championship since 2003. The win also established a new school record of 29 for a single season.


Maroons 81, West Aurora 43 (30-2)

West expected stiffer competition as it got deeper into the post season. Instead, the Maroons continue to shred it. Liddell had 26 points and 13 rebounds and three other teammates scored in double figures as West dismantled West Aurora. The dominating win, the most lopsided of the playoffs, clinched the Maroons' first berth in the final four since the 1965-66 team placed third. Muniz fought back tears as he considered the reality of the Maroons' accomplishment. "It's been talked about all year long. It's pretty special," said Muniz, his voice cracking. "It's been 14 hard years, and I'm pretty proud. We've got two more (games). We've got to go do it."


Maroons 64, Elgin Larkin 53 (31-2)

The Maroons, as in previous postseason games, turned a close contest into a convincing victory in Carver Arena at the Peoria Civic Center. West opened the game with a 9-0 surge, then employed a 21-6 run over a nine-minute stretch in the second and third quarters to put itself in the driver's seat and send it to the title game, the first in school history. Liddell led all players with 24 points and became the Maroons' career scoring leader with 1,742 points, surpassing the late Milton Wiley (1,726). Liddell also set a Class 4A single-game state-tournament record with seven blocks against Larkin. The former record of four blocks, according to the Illinois High School Association, had been set many times. Junior Keith Randolph Jr. recorded a double-double with 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while senior Malachi Smith and junior Lawrence Brazil III had eight points apiece.


Maroons 60, Whitney Young 56 (32-2)

After 101-years of basketball, going back to FJ Friedli's 7-4 team of 1916-17, the Belleville West Maroons finally found their pot of gold — on St. Patrick's Day no less. Junior Lawrence Brazil III had a steal and a layup in the final five seconds of overtime to clinch the Maroons' heart-stopping victory. It's the first state title for the Maroons (32-2), who placed third in 1966. Brazil led the Maroons with 18 points and four steals, none bigger than the last one that helped unseat Whitney Young as the defending state champions. Liddell, who scored 17 points with 10 rebounds, finished the season with 708 points, surpassing the former record of 703 points set by Joe Wiley in 1965-66. "From day one, we always told each other if we put the work in, this was going to happen," said Malachi Smith, who transferred from East after his junior year. "For this type of thing to happen, it takes a team to believe in it. We made everyone believe. Now we're state champions."