Belleville West came out firing Tuesday in its 78-62 victory over McCluer.
The Maroons made 17 of their first 21 shots from the field and built a 50-28 lead at halftime as they marched into the semifinals of the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East.
“We tried to come out and get it going at the beginning,” said sophomore EJ Liddell, who led West with 23 points and two dunks. “Nobody was being selfish. If we saw we didn’t have a shot, we passed the ball. We got good shots and worked it inside and outside a lot.”
West (10-4) will meet Althoff (11-4) at 6 p.m. Friday in the first meeting between the teams this season. The Crusaders reached the semifinals with an 87-85 victory over Alton.
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Maroons coach Joe Muniz lauded his team’s sizzling start.
“The first half, I thought we played really well,” he said. “We shared the ball well, we shot it well, we played with a lot of confidence. I thought our defense caused them a lot of trouble, and our size hurt them around the basket.”
The Maroons were 25-for-47 (53 percent) from the floor.
McCluer (8-6) led 9-6 less than three minutes into the game, but the Maroons used a 17-0 run to grab a 23-9 lead with 2:07 to play in the first quarter.
Senior Dalton Fox fueled the drive with 11 points, and the Maroons also made all six of their free throws. The Comets shot themselves in the foot with seven turnovers.
West led by as many as 27 points in the second half. The highlight play for the Maroons was a lob pass from senior Elijah Powell that led to a dunk by Liddell.
“Elijah is a great passer,” Liddell said. “We have never done that in practice. I saw him throw it up there, and I just went up there and got it.”
Muniz expected a much more difficult game and pointed out McCluer’s 82-73 victory over previously undefeated Sikeston, the No. 1-ranked team in Missouri, on Jan. 7.
“They can score in bunches,” Muniz said of McCluer. “We could have done a better job of finishing the game, but we played well. I liked the way we shared the basketball.”
West had three others players in double figures: Dancy with 15, Fox with 13 and senior DeAndre Jackson with 10. McCluer senior Gerard Moore led all scorers with 25 points, including three 3-pointers. Senior Anthony Harris scored 16 points.
Dancy exited the game with 4:25 to play after rolling his ankle.
“I don’t know how serious it is,” Muniz said. “Hopefully, he’ll be back (Friday).”