Belleville West overcame a 14-point deficit in the second half Saturday night, but the Maroons couldn’t deliver the knockout blow against the East St. Louis Flyers.
Sophomore Terrence Hargrove Jr. scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, senior Jeremiah Tilmon scored 16 points and seniors Kerion Chairs and Arthur Carter had 13 points apiece as the Flyers won 72-66 in a Southwestern Conference game between ranked foes.
“Everything was just clicking,” said Hargrove, who had 13 points and three 3-pointers in the first quarter. “I came out with a lot of heart, confidence and just played my game.
“They weren’t believing that I could really shoot, because I never really shoot (much) in games. I just used my jump shot, used my confidence and started making shots.”
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East St. Louis, ranked ninth in the Class 4A poll, improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the SWC. West, ranked fourth in Class 4A, fell to 4-2 and 2-1.
Everything was just clicking. I came out with a lot of heart, confidence and just played my game. They weren’t believing that I could really shoot, because I never really shoot (much) in games. I just used my jump shot, used my confidence and started making shots.
East St. Louis sophomore Terrence Hargrove Jr.
Hargrove had not been a 3-point threat in the Flyers’ first seven games, going just 3-for-6. West coach Joe Muniz, thus, had the Maroons play off Hargrove and instead clog the middle against the 6-foot-10 Tilmon.
“The Hargrove kid was the difference in the game,” Muniz said. “It didn’t look like, in the film that we’ve seen, that he was a great outside shooter. But he sure stroked it tonight.
“That’s what’s great about sports. That’s the gambles that you do, the risks that you take when you try to take things away from people. You’re going to give up something.”
West paid closer attention to Hargrove in the second half, and it helped spur them to a 52-51 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Maroons eventually were forced to foul, and the Flyers responded by going 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 59.7 seconds.
“We were resilient,” East St. Louis coach Phillip Gilbert said. “That’s five games in seven days. Everybody put us on their back tonight, and we came out on top against a good team.
“As far as the rankings go, we really don’t look at that. We play our brand of basketball.”
West trailed 18-17 after one quarter, then was outscored by the Flyers 20-11 in the second quarter as it fell behind 38-28 at halftime.
The Flyers’ lead grew to 42-28 on consecutive baskets by Tilmon to start the third quarter, including a dunk.
But Maroons sophomore E.J. Liddell sparked a big comeback with 11 third-quarter points, helping West close to within 49-46 after three.
He started wanting it a little bit and started getting a little fire in his belly. He needed a game like that. He shot the ball well. He’s the best player on the floor, and he needs to act like it. In the second half, I thought he acted like it.
Belleville West coach Joe Muniz on sophomore E.J. Liddell
“He started wanting it a little bit and started getting a little fire in his belly,” Muniz said of Liddell. “He needed a game like that. He shot the ball well. He’s the best player on the floor, and he needs to act like it. In the second half, I thought he acted like it.”
A 3-pointer by junior Will Matthews and a free throw by senior Tyler Dancy gave the Maroons a 52-51 lead with 5:31 to play in the game.
The Flyers took the lead for good, however, on a free throw by senior Reyondous Estes. The Missouri football recruit missed his second free throw, but Carter recovered the rebound and scored on a 10-footer from the right side to make it 55-52 with 4:34 to play.
West had a critical over-and-back turnover with 3:19 remaining, and Chairs followed with a 3-pointer to make it 61-54 with 3:04 left. The Maroons got within 63-61 on Dancy’s basket in the paint before the Flyers caught fire from the free-throw line to clinch the win.
“They stepped up,” Gilbert said. “Experience showed. In practice, they concentrate on making free throws. We missed a couple, but we made them when it counts. That’s the game.”
Carter also had 10 assists for East Side, while Tilmon had nine rebounds and three blocks and Hargrove finished with seven rebounds.
Liddell led all scorers with 20 points and had nine rebounds and three blocks. Matthews had 10 points, and Dancy had nine points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Senior Dalton Fox and sophomore Will Lanxon had eight points apiece.
“I was proud of our effort in coming back from the 14-point deficit,” Muniz said. “But I was disappointed with how we took care of the basketball in certain moments of the game. They did not turn us over. We turned ourselves over. We’re better than that. For whatever reason, we had some bad mental lapses.”