East St. Louis senior Jeremiah Tilmon was limited to fewer than 17 minutes of court time because of foul trouble, but the 6-foot-11 senior contributed one of the biggest baskets of the Flyers’ 56-52 win Friday night over the Belleville West Maroons.
Owners of up to a 14-point lead in the first half and a 34-24 halftime edge, the Flyers had watched West carve into that lead thoughout the second half.
A 3-pointer by the Maroons’ Will Matthews had West within 51-48 with 4:59 to play.
A little more than a minute later, East Side coach Phillip Gilbert decided his team needed Tilmon, who had been sitting since the 5:09 mark of the third quarter with four fouls, back on the floor.
Seconds later, it paid dividends as Tilmon got down a strong two-handed slam to put his team back up by five.
A free throw from Arthur Carter later extended the Flyers’ lead to six with 2:35 remaining.
And while the Maroons had their chances down the stretch – they were within 52-50 with 1:10 remaining and had a 3-pointer at the buzzer rim off – Tilmon’s dunk seemed let the Flyers (15-7, 9-2) know they could weather West’s late charge.
“It’s tough, dealing with all those fouls,” said Tilmon, a University of Illinois signee, who was limited to four points and six rebounds. “I just wanted to do something to get the game going back our direction.”
Gilbert was glad to see his team escape with a tough road win.
“Every game in this conference is a war,” said Gilbert. “Me and my coaches tried to game plan in case Jeremiah got into foul trouble. And our kids, for the most part, did a good job of keeping it together when he was out of there.
“But West is a good team, especially their two big kids (E.J. Liddell and Tyler Dancey). We just did enough.”
While the Maroons (14-8, 7-4) had their chances at the end, some poor play at the beginning of the first and second quarters may have helped do them in.
East St. Louis opened the game with a 10-0 run and led 15-10 after a quarter. The Flyers then scored the opening eight points of the second quarter to go up by 13.
“You can’t start a game like we did against a team like East St. Louis,” said Maroons coach Joe Muniz. “It forces you have to work too hard to get back into it.
“We had our chances there at the end, the guys did a good job to keep playing hard.”
Reyondous Estes led East St. Louis with 15 points, while sophomore Terrence Hargrove scored 12 of his points in the first half, aiding the Flyers’ early surge. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Arthur Carter finished with 11 points for the Flyers.
West’s Liddell broke loose for 13 second-half points and topped all scorers with 18. Dancey finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Maroons.
East St. Louis is off until Feb. 17, when it hosts O’Fallon. West travels to Althoff for a city showdown against the Crusaders on Saturday.