Belleville West's girls basketball team has been living on the long ball.
Entering their Southwestern Conference game with Alton Thursday, the Maroons had put together a streak of four games in which they sank at least 10 three-point baskets.
But they found a different way to beat the Redbirds. West got points inside and out from eight different players to win 54-34.
Senior Imani Berry scored 15 of her game-high 17 in the first half, just once hitting from beyond the arc. And senior Shay Fluker, who hit five three-pointers herself against O'Fallon earlier in the week, hit just one against Alton as part of her 13-point performance.
But the Maroons were aggressive to the basket, especially in the first half.
"I saw that Alton was playing a zone defense and that gave me the opportunity to drive and get some layups," said Berry, who averages 19.3 points per game. "They overplayed on defense."
Alton took a 4-3 lead early on a stick-back basket by Megan Paulda. But an 14-4 run, during which Berry scored eight points, put the Maroons ahead for good.
Baskets by Fluker, Berry and Kwanisha Carroll-Quarles opened the lead to 13 early in the second quarter. Alton was held to just three field goals during the quarter, two by Lajarvia Brown. West went into the half with a 29-18 lead.
"I think we did a good job stopping their drives, because they like to drive then kick the ball out to shoot the three," said Alton coach Bob Rickman. "But we didn't rebound in the first half, then we quit trying in the second. When you do that against a good team, you lose by 20 points."
Erika Harvey opened the second half scoring with a three-pointer, just the second of the game for the Maroons. The third came from Fluker during a 13-2 West run to close out the third quarter and into the fourth. Harvey and Carroll-Quarles also had baskets during the run and sophomore Jamie Adams hit a three-pointer, the first of her two, to make the score 51-24.
“They played a match-up zone and really shaded our shooters. They did a good job,” said West coach Clayton Fisher. “We did a better job getting the ball inside to our post players and kicking it opposite. Really, we just did the things you do to win games. So, I was happy.”
Both teams got into their benches for the fourth quarter. Alton scored 10 points with just two field goals.
West improves to 11-4 on the season and has now won six of its last seven. Fisher likes where the Maroons are positioned heading into the final three weeks of the season, but is preaching better effort on defense before the start of post-season play.
"Defense and rebounding will be the key for us," he said. "When we guard properly, we do good things. When we don't, we're not big enough to make up for our mistakes. So when we let girls to the goal, it's not like we're blocking shots like we have in the past. We have to play great defense."
In addition to Berry and Fluker, Harvey had seven points for the Maroons, Adams had six, Kwanisha Carroll-Quarles scored four, Anjanice Jones had three and Sydney Thurwalker had two.
Jewel Wagner led Alton (3-11) with 11 points, Brown had six, Paulda had five, Kenya Burnett had four and three others had two points each.