Girls Basketball

Belleville West primed for long postseason run behind Fluker, Berry

Will he? or won’t he?

Not even Belleville West girls basketball coach Clayon Fisher knows for sure if this current season will be his last as the Maroons head coach.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Fisher said before a Maoons practice last week. “At one time I was strongly leaning toward this being my last season. But I’m just not for sure what I want to do. We’ll see what happens. Regardless of what happens, this is a great group of kids this year and it’s been a fun season.

“Hopefully we can continue to have some fun for a little while longer here.”

Seeded first in the Class 4A O’Fallon Regional, Belleville West (23-5) begins its postseason quest on Wednesday when it will take on the winner of the game between fourth-seeded O’Fallon and fifth-seed Belleville East, at 6 p.m. The East-O’Fallon game is Monday at 7 p.m.

Second-seed East St. Louis will play third seed Collinsville at 7:30 p.m. in the other Wednesday semifinal, with the winners playing for the regional title at 7 p.m.Friday.

“I think we’re ready. We’re not looking ahead because we know we’ll have a tough game with either Belleville East or O’Fallon on Wednesday. This is a tough regional,” Fisher said. “I know I keep saying this but its true. We’re good enough to where we can beat anybody. But we can also lose to anybody.

“With Imani (Berry) and Shay (Fluker), we’re going to score points. For us it comes down to rebounding and playing good defense.”

The 5-foot-10-inch-tall Fluker and 5-9 Berry have been among the best guard tandems in the St. Louis-area this season. The duo broke loose for a combined 66 points in their final home game last week and average nearly 41 points a game combined.

Fluker leads West in scoring a 20.6, while Berry is a close second at 19.8.

“They are two gifted athletes and two very good basketball players,” Fisher said. “Shay’s got the ability to post up smaller players inside, she’s driving the ball to the basket more and she’s also got the ability to step out and shoot the ball from the perimeter.

“Whereas Imani’s quickness is remarkable. She’s also taking the ball inside more, but if teams back off her, Imani’s 3-point shooting has gotten so much better the last couple of years to where she’s a real theat from the perimeter. Another thing which has helped both of them has been their shot selection. They aren’t forcing nearly as much this year as they did in the past. They’ve matured.”

The Maroons have also gotten contributions from senior point guard Alliyah St. John, junior guard/forward Erika Harvey, sophomore post player Anjanice Jones and freshman Sydney Thurwalker.

“We don’t have a lot of depth, but we’ve had some kids step up and make big plays,” Fisher said. “Alliyah (St. John) has done a great job running our defense. She almost always guards the oppositions best offensive guard and she’s done a good job every time out.

“And Erika (Harvey)? A player who sat out all last year with a knee injury who has come in and hit some very big shots. I can’t tell you how many times this year when early in the game, she’s hit a 3-point jumper. What that does is that it gets defenses to pay attention to her and it takes some of the pressure off our other players,” FIsher said. “Erika is also player who works very hard. She’s in the gym a lot shooting and lifting weights.”

Of the Maroons five losses, four have have come against two of the top teams in the state in Central (twice) and Edwardsville (twice). West also lost to East St. Louis in December.

“Looking at our schedule, there were two games which got away from us — against Central in overtime at the Mascoutah Tournament and here (West) a couple of weeks ago when we lost to Edwardsville in overtime,” Fisher said. “Other then those two games, we’ve done what we were supposed to do, played everybody tough and had had another really good season.

“Are we capable of having a long postseason run here? Yes? Will we? Like I said earlier it comes down to playing good defense and rebounding.”