On a night when they were honored with the ultimate tribute, the Belleville West Maroons did what they do best. They dominated.
Lawrence Brazil III connected on two of his five 3-point baskets in a near flawless second quarter and the defending state champion Maroons never looked back as they defeated city rival Belleville East 69-32 Friday in a Southwestern Conference game.
The night, which began with the Maroons receiving their ‘18 Class 4A state championship rings and unveiling the state championship banner, was highlighted by an impressive effort by the Maroons. Ranked first in the Class 4A state poll, West (7-0) jumped out to a 20-6 lead after one quarter then hit on 11-of-12 shots in the second period to take a 43-14 lead at halftime.
Despite playing without senior Keith Randolph, who was on a football recruiting visit to Michigan State University, the Maroons’ lead grew to 39 points early in the third quarter.
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“I was a little concerned about the kids keeping their focus after the ceremony. I’m one who likes to keep things simple and I’m not one to get caught up all the hoopla,’’ West coach Joe Muniz said. “We talked about staying focused in the locker room and I thought we came out and played very well in the first half.
“Out passing was crisp, we shared the basketball and I just thought our offensive execution was very good in the first half.’’
Belleville East, led by Malik Williams’ nine points, didn’t quit. While East never got to within 25 points in the final two quarters, coach Jeff Creek’s team battled until the end as it falls to 4-4 for the season.
Senior all-state center EJ Liddell, who thrilled the near capacity crowd with two monster slam dunks, added 14 points for Belleville West, while Will Shumpert added 11.
Before the game, Muniz and Liddell recognized and thanked the fans for their support. The ceremony concluded when led by Liddell, the Maroons unveiled the state championship banner. The state title is the 11th in school history and first since the Maroons girls track and field team won the 2009 Class 3A state championship.
Brazil said while the ring presentation was nice, he and his teammates stayed focused on the business of playing their crosstown rivals.
“We didn’t want to get caught up in the ceremony. We had a game to play and we had to stay focused on getting ready to play,’’ Brazil said. “We came out and hit them early. We shared the basketball and we got good shots.’’
Creek, whose team had won four of five games before Friday, didn’t think his team was bothered by the pregame business. West hit the Lancers early and although not quitting, East was no match for West on this night.
“That is a great basketball team we played tonight and I’m pleased at how we kept battling and we didn’t quit,’’ Crfeek said. “They (West) came out hard on us early and I think we got a little frazzled both mentally and physically.’’
Muniz also was impressed by the way East kept fighting. But on this night against the defending Class 4A state champions, the Lancers were no match.
“Lawrence (Brazil) shot the ball well tonight, but I thought it was another very good team effort,’’ Muniz said. “EJ played well. I don’t know how many assists he had. Will (Shumpert) did a great job inside and I thought Marcellus (Romious) did a great job as well.’’