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What they're saying about Belleville West Maroons state basketball championship

"I can't tell you how proud I am of my team. "We battled back from adversity. It's been a long time since we've been in a tough game like this. Our guys just showed the heart of a lion. They had this one common goal."

— Joe Muniz, Belleville West coach

"I thought their guards were really good. They played good defense, they handled the ball, they could go to the basket, they could shoot it. I was really impressed with the guards. And, of course, (EJ) Liddell and (Keith) Randolph. I thought (Randolph) was a difference-maker in the tournament. He came up with some big plays. I love the way he hustles. He's got that wide body and he's got some skills. He's relentless."

— Joe Wiley, former Belleville Township star

"It's good knowing that we're state champions when no one believed in us. From day one, we always told each other if we put the work in, this was going to happen. For this type of thing to happen, it takes a team to believe in it. We made everyone believe. Now we're state champions."

— Malachi Smith, Belleville West senior

"I'm really out of words right now, honestly. I'm just so excited."

— EJ Liddell, Belleville West junior

"EJ Liddell is the best player in the 4A tournament. He would be the best player in the 3A tournament. He is better than anyone who took the floor in the 1A and 2A finals. ... If he is not the best high school player in Illinois right now, somebody please show me a better one."

— Kirk Wessler, Peoria Journal Star sports editor

"The 6-7 junior terrorizes opponents down low, using his big frame, great hands, nimble feet and soft touch around the rim to finish at will. He shows shooting range and more than workable form out to the 3-point line. And for a player at his size and position, his mid-range game is unique and extremely effective. From an offensive standpoint, he has an old-school game to him that you love. His game reminds you of a cross between a smaller Wayman Tisdale and a less-athletic Xavier McDaniel."

— Joe Henricksen, City/Suburban Hoops Report, on EJ Liddell

"They're a great basketball team and they had great community support. It was an event that will forever (be remembered) in the lives of those that participated in it."

— Jerry Turner, former Belleville Township coach

"I'm very happy for Joe (Muniz) and the team. They had worked very hard. They had high expectations and people were expecting a lot of them. I was very pleased they were able to come through. It was a satisfying victory. It was something they had pointed to and worked toward since last summer. It's good to have your dreams realized. It was a special moment. The satisfaction of the moment will increase with time for the players and coaches."

— Roger Mueller, Belleville West assistant coach and former Maroons head coach

"I woke up Sunday and said, 'That really did happen, didn't it?'" What I was so thrilled about it Whitney Young was a very good basketball team. That championship game was played in a (Chicago) Public High League mode. That was a battle out there, and Belleville West played that style and beat them. It's a testimony to how great great athletics are in the Southwestern Conference. It is a fabulous basketball conference, and that helped them out, I know for sure."

— Bill Schmidt, former Belleville West coach

"I'm going to get better and everybody is going to get better, and we're going to come back next year to do it again. There are guys on our bench who are going to step up and other guys who will keep us deep. We'll come back with a chip on our shoulder and get back after it."

— EJ Liddell

"I'm going to enjoy this right now and I'm going to miss our seniors, because they helped me become a better person and a better player. But we have other guys ready to step up. We can do it again next year.

— Belleville West junior Lawrence Brazil

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