Belleville West advances to Centralia tourney title game
The Belleville Maroons have been a regular at the Centralia Holiday Tournament nearly since its beginnings 74 years ago.
They’ve won three championships and five times been tournament runners-up. But haven’t been to the finals since 2003.
Belleville West ended the drought with a 49-39 tournament semifinal win over the host Orphans on Friday. The Maroons (8-3) will square off with Marist Catholic (14-0) Friday night at 9 p.m. for the championship.
“Beating Centralia on their home court in the semis is a big win,” said West coach Joe Muniz. “I have to give Centralia a lot of credit. They battled us hard, it was a very physical game, and they took every bit of energy we could use to win.”
Sophomore E.J. Liddell led the way for West with a game-high 18 points to go with seven rebounds. Will Lanxon, who hit both of his 3-point attempts, added 11.
The Maroons fell behind 15-7 in the first quarter but stormed to the lead on a 19-2 run that was stopped only when Centralia’s Javon Williams drained a 60-footer at the first-half buzzer.
Centralia outscored West 11-7 in the third quarter, sparked by a 3-pointer and another long bucket by Jordan Mains, whose 17 points led the Orphans. Bryan Meskil’s two foul shots with 5:17 left tied the game at 36.
Lanxon put the Maroons ahead with the second of his two 3s, and West closed on an 8-0 run that spanned the game’s final three minutes. Liddell and Tyler Dancy each scored during the rally.
Centralia (8-3) struggled from the field, shooting 14-for-40 and 5-for-15 from beyond the arc. The Maroons were 16-for-32 and out-rebounded the Orphans 21-17.
Marist 50, Champaign Central 49
Marist reached the finals by defeating top-seeded Champaign Central in the day’s first semifinal.
The RedHawks trailed 44-32 at the end of three quarters, but closed on an 18-5 run to remain undefeated and advance to a championship date with Belleville West.
Three players reached double figures, including Morgan Taylor’s 14. Justin Brown, Marist’s 6-foot-8 center, was held to five points but blocked an attempted game-winning shot at the buzzer.
“The thing about Marist ... is they never quit,” said Muniz. They battled for 32 minutes, down double digits and found a way to win. That’s just the kind of team they have. It’s going to be a tough game for us.
“It’ll be a tough game for them because we have size, and we have some depth.”
O’Fallon 39, Alton 30
The Panthers, dispatched from the winner’s bracket with a loss to Marist on Thursday, will face Thorton Fractional-North for fifth place Friday at 4:30 p.m.
O’Fallon (7-4) defeated Southwestern Conference rival Alton in Friday’s first game, holding the Redbirds to just 26.6 percent shooting and outrebounding them 28-23.
Burke Watts led the Panthers with 10 points. Kevin Caldwell, who scored 28 against top-seeded Champaign Central on Thursday, also scored 10 to lead Alton.