Liddell on regional win
Give the Chatham Glenwood Titans credit, they really made the Belleville West Maroons work to win a regional title Friday night.
Really work for it.
Down by one with 5:38 remaining, the defending Class 4A state champions outscored Glenwood 14-4 down the stretch to come away with a 52-43 victory in the championship game of their own Belleville West Class 4A Regional.
With the win, the Maroons (28-4) advance into the semifinal of the (East Moline) United Township Sectional against Alton. The game will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Edwardsville High School.
Alton (22-9-1) advanced by defeating the host Kahoks 58-48 at the Collinsville Regional on Friday night.
It will be the fourth meeting between the Southwestern Conference rivals. The first two went to West, by a combined 11 points. The most recent contest went to the Redbirds, 44-43 on Feb. 20 in Alton.
“The kids have been through the wars,” said West coach Joe Muniz. “E.J. (Liddell) for four. Keith (Reynolds) and (Lawrence) Brazil (III) for three.
“They did a great job weathering the storm. Maintaining their composure when it got close.”
Down 26-8 in the early going, Glenwood methodically fought its way back until it was finally in front.
A 3-pointer from Luke Luhnen gave the Titans their first lead at 37-36 with just under a minute remaining in the third quarter.
Bradyn Kilby hit a pair of free throw 2 minutes and 22 seconds in to the fourth quarter, giving Glenwood a 39-38 advantage.
That’s when the Maroons seemed to decide it was time to step up.
Keith Randolph got things started by scoring his only basket of the game on a strong drive to the hoop.
The next two times down the floor, it was Liddell – first with a strong move inside from the state’s reigning Mr. Basketball followed by a 3 from the top of the key.
Suddenly it was 45-41.
The Titans did pull within 46-43 with 1:18 to go, but they would not score again. The Titans came up empty on six of their final seven possessions, as West sealed the win by sinking six consecutive free throws.
“I felt like, with it being a close game, I really needed to step up and help us,” said Liddell. “Not just with scoring, but also with passing and rebounding.”
Liddell put up a line of 23 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and at least three assists in his final game on a court where he has started every game for the past four seasons.
“I tried not to be emotional about it in the locker room,” said Liddell, who a year ago became the school’s all-time leading scorer. “It’s meant a lot for me that everyone from Belleville West has had my back.”
The Maroons came out of the gate much like they did in their 71-32 semifinal rout of O’Fallon Tuesday.
Brazil drained a pair of threes and had eight points overall as West led 20-7 after one.
Liddell’s only dunk of the game made it 25-8 early in the second quarter. That lead would eventually grow to 17, before Glenwood started to turn the tide.
“We needed to do what we did against O’Fallon,” said Muniz. “We needed to make sure we didn’t let up and allow them to get some confidence.
“Chatham’s a good team. They’ve won 20 games. This is a good win for us.”
The Titans chewed up much of that deficit with a 14-2 surge to close the first half.
“We did what we had to do to be in the game tonight,” said Glenwood coach Todd Blakeman, whose team bows out at 20-11. “All night long, we got the shots we wanted. Never backed down.
“Everyone expected them to steamroll us, by 40, 30, 20. Proud of my kids.”
Lehnen topped Glenwood with 14 points. Kilby finished with 13.
Liddell’s 23 points led three Maroons into double-digit scoring. Will Shumpert finished with 11 points and Brazil had 10.
While the regional title is nice, it’s just a step along the way for the Maroons, according to Muniz.
“Three in a row is a great accomplishment for these guys,” he said. “What we want takes seven games and we just got past step two.
“Step three is Tuesday night. That’s all we are looking at.”