Clutch free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter propelled Belleville West back into the victory column Tuesday.
Sophomore E.J. Liddell and senior Tyler Dancy combined to go 8-for-8 from the line in the final 1:38 as the Maroons outlasted O’Fallon 60-55 in a Southwestern Conference game.
Dancy’s free throws with 6.5 seconds to play sealed the outcome, and they picked up sophomore Will Lanxon, who missed two attempts with 14 seconds remaining.
“I was pretty confident,” Dancy said. “I’ve been in situations like that before, being a senior. So I just stayed calm and hit the free throws.
“It was a tough game. They really came out and pressured the ball. They moved a lot and they’re real scrappy. It’s hard to guard a team that’s always running 100 miles an hour.”
West, which had had dropped two straight, improved to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the SWC. The Panthers, who trailed 38-24 in the third quarter, fell to 5-3 and 3-1.
It was the first time West coach Joe Muniz and younger brother Brian Muniz, the Panthers’ coach, had met on the basketball court. The two shared a brief hug after the game and later said it felt like any other night of SWC competition.
“You’re not worried about what he’s doing, and I’m sure he wasn’t worried about what I was doing,” Brian Muniz said. “It’s about what’s happening out on the coach. You’re so concerned about what your team is doing and how it’s doing it, making adjustments during the game. You’re not thinking about anything else besides what’s going on.”
The Maroons led 14-13 after one quarter and 32-22 at halftime. They pulled away to a 38-24 lead on a basket by senior Dalton Fox with 6:21 to play in the third quarter and led 44-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers inched within 46-42 on a 3-pointer by junior Jalen Hodge with 5:42 to play after Liddell missed a dunk. Junior Ronnie Anthony then scored to get O’Fallon within 48-44.
West answered with baskets by junior Will Matthews and Liddell, and after Panthers senior Alex Orr made a 3-pointer, Liddell sank four free throws in a 25-second span to put the Maroons on top 54-47 with 1:35 left.
After Lanxon’s two free-throw misses with 14 seconds to play, another 3-pointer by Orr brought O’Fallon within 58-55 with nine seconds left. Dancy followed with his two free throws.
“Any win in the Southwestern Conference on the road is a big win,” Joe Muniz said. “This was a big win for our guys to get off the little slide that we were on. We did enough to win the game. We’ve got a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go, but I was pleased to walk out of here with a win. O’Fallon played awfully hard, never gave up.”
West overcame 19 turnovers against O’Fallon’s pressure on all points of the court. The Maroons shot 55 percent from the field (22-for-40). The Panthers committed 12 turnovers and shot 38 percent (21-for-56).
Liddell neither scored nor attempted a shot in the first quarter, but he finished with a game-high 16 points. Dancy had 14. Senior Ryan Fulton led O’Fallon with 14 points, while junior Jalen Hodge had 10.
West welcomed back senior point guard DeAndre Jackson from an ankle injury he suffered in the Maroons’ season opener, but played without sophomore Keith Randolph, who missed the game because of concussion protocol. Randolph was injured in practice Monday.