Belleville West was determined to turn the page on its disappointing season opener.
Senior Tyler Dancy poured in 19 points and sophomore E.J. Liddell scored 18 to lead five players in double figures as the third-seeded Maroons pounded second-seeded Hazelwood Central 79-59 on Wednesday in the Vianney Invitational Tournament.
The Maroons (1-1), who were tripped by Farmington in their tourney opener Tuesday, will oppose the host Golden Griffins (2-0) in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday.
“After losing a tough game the night before, we wanted to come out with more intensity and just take our anger out on the other team and play hard,” said the 6-foot-7 Dancy, who imposed his will in the paint by going 8-for-14 and blocking a handful of shots.
“It’s good, always, to play good offensively. But it’s even better to play defense because you’re stopping them from scoring.”
Senior Dalton Fox and sophomore Keith Randolph chipped in with 13 points apiece for West, while junior Will Matthews had 10 points.
The 6-5 Randolph canned perhaps the biggest shot of the game. After the Hawks (1-1) drew within 54-44 on a 3-pointer by senior Paul Sullivan with six seconds remaining in the third period, Randolph sank a 35-footer at the horn to put the Maroons back ahead by 13.
West was never threatened in the fourth quarter as it snapped the Hawks’ string of three consecutive tournament championships.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and how they reacted,” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “It was a tough game last night. We were disappointed in our effort. We were disappointed in our play. Farmington played great.
“I texted the guys this morning and said, ‘The ball’s in our court. We still have a chance to play for the championship. It’s what we decide to do.’”
The only sour spot for the Maroons was an inability to take care of the basketball. West racked up 29 turnovers but lived to tell the tale and will seek its first Vianney title since 2012.
It didn’t help that two of their guards, seniors DeAndre Jackson and Jordan Parks, were sidelined by injuries. Jackson suffered a broken ankle in the opener Tuesday and will be sidelined six to eight weeks. Parks is fighting a knee issue.
Muniz credited the work of sophomore Will Lanxon, who made his first start and was not overwhelmed by the moment.
“I know he didn’t score a point, but we could not have even competed without his effort out there,” Muniz said. “Just a phenomenal job for a sophomore under that type of pressure and duress the whole game.”
Even before Randolph’s huge 3-pointer, the Maroons faced danger.
West saw what had been a 40-28 lead trimmed to 40-34 with 5:59 left in the third. The Maroons reeled off the next six points, three apiece by Dancy and Randolph, to make it 46-34.
The lead swelled to a game-high 24 points, 76-52, on a dunk by Liddell with 3:34 left in the contest. Liddell finished 7-for-9 from the floor.
“We really did a lot of things,” Muniz said. “But the biggest thing is we came out with a lot more fire and determination. We played like Belleville West should play.”