Defense helped the Belleville West Maroons win a championship Friday night.
Senior Dalton Fox limited Vianney senior Eric Krus to 13 points as the Maroons defeated the host Golden Griffins 58-43 in the title game of the Vianney Invitational Tournament.
It was the first championship for West (2-1) at Vianney in four years. The Maroons got 14 points from sophomore E.J. Liddell, 13 from senior Tyler Dancy and 10 from Fox, who utilized his 6-foot-5 frame to hold the 6-5 Krus 17 points under his average.
“We all talked about how he had averaged 30 points a game. We knew he was going to be one of our main concerns,” Fox said of Krus. “We switched out me and Will Matthews on him, and we both did a really good job of keeping him from putting up a lot of shots.”
Fox said he “takes a lot of pride” in his defensive game.
“Defense creates offense most of the time,” Fox said. “This gives us a lot of motivation. We’ve got a lot of momentum now, and hopefully we’re going to ride it (Saturday).”
The Maroons will play Edwardsville at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, part of a four-game Southwestern Conference extravaganza.
West coach Joe Muniz said Fox was the perfect player to use against Krus, who scored 33 points against Ladue and 27 points against St. Louis University High in Vianney’s first two games of the tournament. He was 5-of-9 from the field against the Maroons.
“We started off with Will Matthews on Krus, and he got two fouls right away,” Muniz said. “Dalton’s a long kid and Dalton will take a challenge of guarding another team’s better player. I thought he did a great job. I think the thing about him was his length. He was able to get around their screens, reach out and at least get a hand up.
“Every shot that Krus hit, he was there. And we didn’t sit Dalton a whole lot. Because of foul trouble, we had to keep him out there. We needed somebody like Dalton to be able to stay on (Krus’) butt and stay out high on him.”
The Maroons led 42-24 with five minutes to play in the third quarter and appeared to be on the verge of blowing out the Golden Griffins.
But Vianney got 3-pointers from senior T.J. Cochran and senior Ethan Kleinheider and an amazing runout dunk by lean 6-7 junior Colin Braun, cutting West’s lead to 42-32 with 2:26 remaining in the period.
Dancy followed with an air ball for the Maroons, and the small but lively gathering of Golden Griffins fans wouldn’t let Dancy forget.
Dancy quieted them, however, on West’s next possession when he scored on a putback while being fouled by Braun. The ensuing free throw made it 45-32 at the 1:54 mark.
“That was huge,” Muniz said.
Vianney cut the gap to 48-40 on a layup by Kleinheider off a Maroons turnover with 4:22 to play in the game. West answered with an 8-0 run that featured two baskets by Dancy and one apiece by Fox and senior Ian Parker.
“We made some runs, but when you’re down 15, 16, it’s pretty hard to come back with the style we’re going to play,” Vianney coach Kevin Walsh said. “(West) is a good team. Joe does a good job and his kids are tough.”
Matthews, a 6-foot-2 junior, added seven points for the Maroons, all in the first quarter, before fouling out with 4:59 to play in the game. Sophomore Will Lanxon, starting at point guard for the injured DeAndre Jackson, made two key 3-pointers in the first half as West opened a 34-24 lead at the intermission.
The Maroons also are playing without senior guards Jordan Parks and Elijah Powell.
Muniz said West needs all the players it can get at this point.
“I couldn’t say enough about our guys as far as how they have stepped up with the injuries and adversity we’ve had just this week,” Muniz said. “You’ve got your two best guards sitting on the bench, and possibly three. We’ve had guys like Ian Parker and Justin Edwards (contribute), and I can’t say enough about Will Lanxon. He’s handling the ball, getting the team into what they’re doing. He’s great defensively.
“And we’re getting big play out of Keith Randolph. I said before the season this is the deepest team I’ve ever had. This week showed it. To beat Vianney on their home court is a great win.”