The start of the 2016-17 season couldn’t have gone any better for the Belleville West Maroons.
The Maroons were never threatened Wednesday as they clinched the title of the third annual O’Fallon Lady Panthers Tip-Off Classic with a 69-52 win over McCluer North of Florissant, Mo. Sophomore guard Chamya Darough tallied nine of her 23 points in the first five minutes to highlight an early onslaught.
The only undefeated team in the round-robin event heading into the final day of competition, West (4-0) started fast for the fourth straight game. With Darough and junior guard Kaylee Hanger combining for 15 points, the Maroons jumped out to leads of 11-4 and 17-6 before settling for a 23-11 advantage after one quarter.
McCluer North (2-2) would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the afternoon. Darough and Hanger combined for five 3-pointers, and with B’Aunce Carter, an agile 5-foot-11 forward, scoring both inside and using her speed to get out on the break for a pair of fast break layups, the Maroons’ lead grew to 43-22 at halftime.
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About the only disappointment for the Maroons in the first half was poor foul shooting. With a team free throw percentage of 75 percent entering the game, West made only 6-of-19 from the charity stripe in the first half and finished a sub-par 11-of-32 for the afternoon.
“And we had shot them (free throws) so well in the first three games. Fortunately for us, we had a big enough lead to where it didn’t cost us. But we need to do a better job at the line,” second-year West coach Seth Garrett said. “Like we had in other games in the tournament, we were able to get out to a fast start and get out to a nice lead.
“We were able to get out in transition and get some good looks, and then we shot the ball well early. I’m pleased. We’re happy to come in here, play some pretty good competition and go 4-0. Now we’ll have a couple days off and come back on Saturday and get back to work. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Voted the tournament’s most valuable player, Darough got West off and running when she banked in a 3-point jumper from the top of the key. Hanger also banked in a 3-point shot in the first quarter.
Carter chipped in with 14 points for West, while junior Sydney Thurwalker added 12. Hanger, Darough and Carter combined for 21 of the Maroons’ 23 points.
But while West has played well in the first half of games, it hasn’t been able to duplicate the same effort in the final two quarters early in the season. The Stars, who trailed by as many as 32 points, rallied in the final two quarters. But with West playing its reserves for most of the fourth quarter, the closest McCluer North would get was 14 points.
“We’re awfully young off the bench, and the game action that our reserves got was something we can’t simulate in practice. It was good that they were able to experience it,” Garrett said. “But while we’ve been able to get out to good starts, our second half hasn’t been nearly as good this week. I think we get a little lackadaisical, maybe thinking its going to be easy. We’ve got to clean that up.”