It was certainly not a masterpiece, but quality often doesn’t count for a whole lot on the opening day of the season.
Spurred by strong starts to both halves, the Belleville West Maroons proved too much for a young group of Central Cougars, cruising to a 39-20 win Saturday in the opening day of the third annual O’Fallon Tip-Off Classic.
That victory capped a 2-0 day for the Maroons, who had defeated Chatham-Glenwood 56-44 in the tournament opener. The third game of the day saw host O’Fallon fall just short against Glenwood, 49-40.
“I’m loving right now how we came out and played, especially to be 2-0,” said West forward Anjanice Jones, the only senior starter in the Maroons lineup. “I thought we started out a little slow. We got it going in the first game pretty good and then scrapped through the second one.
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“We know we can play better. We just have to play hard all the time.”
Maroons coach Seth Garrett was pleased with his team’s effort, especially considering this was a day where his team was required to play eight quarters in a span of just more than six hours.
“You could tell that was our second game of the day, and you can tell we are not in the best of shape yet,” said Garrett, whose team went 18-12 last season. “We were on our heels for a good portion of the game, but we still found a way to put enough points on the board.
“No matter what, we’ll take the wins, ugly or not.”
For Central, the game marked the start of a new era.
The Cougars graduated almost every player—most significantly two-time Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year selection Kendra Wilken, a 6-foot-2 center now playing at St. Louis University—who saw consistent playing time from last season’s 28-5 team.
And the only player Central returned with any real experience, junior guard Faye Meissner, watched from the bench with a leg injury.
“They’re a young team, but they’re experienced, and we’re a young team, and we are not,” said Cougars coach Nathan Reuter, “and that showed up a little bit today.
“Our kids competed. We obviously just did not make enough shots early. We make one here or there, go into halftime down 15-12 rather than 15-8, and that might have made a difference.”
The Maroons established control early, jumping out to an 11-2 lead after a quarter, and taking a 15-8 advantage into halftime.
West (2-0) played perhaps its best basketball of the day in the opening four minutes of the third quarter, going on an 11-0 run to up its lead to 26-8.
A pair of sophomores initiated the charge out of halftime.
Forward B’Aunce Carter notched the Maroons’ first four points of the surge.
Point guard Chamya Darough, who assisted on Carter’s first bucket of the second half, did the rest of the damage herself.
An All-Southwestern Conference first-team selection a year ago, Darough cashed in off a pair of steals, the second resulting in a conventional three-point play. She later capped the surge with a pair of free throws.
“It is amazing what a whiteboard in the locker room will do,” said Garrett, “and we were able to finally get our message across.
“We had a strategy to get the ball to the opposite side of the floor, and once we started doing that, their zone really opened up.”
The Cougars (0-1) did their best to close the gap—and an Abbie Horstmann basket 3 minutes and 49 seconds into the final quarter did draw them to within 30-20—but West responded with the game’s next five points—a conventional three-point play from Sydney Thurwalker and a pair of Darough free throws—to put it away.
Darough led West with 14 points. Carter had 12 to go with a game-high 10 rebounds. Alexis Klostermann topped Central with six points.
Chatham-Glenwood 49, O’Fallon 40
The host Panthers fell behind early, but it was not until the final minutes that the Titans put the game away.
O’Fallon trailed 30-26 entering the final quarter and kept the pressure on throughout. But only one time did it have a possession where it had a chance to tie or take the lead, and it could not convert.
Glenwood then put the game away by hitting nine free throws in the final 1:01.
Despite the loss, O’Fallon coach Ryan Massey was pleased with his team’s effort, especially in the second half.
“We just could never get over the hump,” said O’Fallon coach Ryan Massey. “We had 17 turnovers in the first half; we finished with 26. We had 13 fouls in the first half. We might have had 14 in the second, but with two and half minutes to go we had four.
“So we played much better defensively in the second half, and that’s what got us back into the game. You could tell these girls really wanted to play, and that gives us something to build on.”
Glenwood’s Mackenzie Bray led the Titans (1-1) with 17 points, 15 of them in the second half.
O’Fallon’s senior Marta Durk led all scorers with 19 points. Jayla Stubblefield and McKenzie Chamberlain both had seven for the Panthers (0-1).
Belleville West 56, Chatham-Glenwood 44
Carter led three Maroons into double-figure scoring with 17 points as West downed the Titans.
Carter scored 10 of her points in the first half, as West built a 23-16 lead by the break. The Maroons led 37-26 by the start of the final quarter.
Darough finished with 15 points, one more than Jones. Glenwood’s Bray topped all scorers with 19 points.