The pinked-out crowd was roaring, and the purple-clad Collinsville Kahoks were celebrating as Kenrique Brown’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer had just sent the game into overtime.
Belleville West coach Joe Muniz simply gathered his squad in front of its bench and smiled.
“I said, ‘We’re in great shape,’” Muniz said. “‘We have a four-minute game to go win.’”
West outscored Collinsville 10-7 in that final period en route to a thrilling 58-55 overtime victory Friday night at Vergil Fletcher Gymnasium.
It wasn’t quite as smooth as West’s 66-46 win over the Kahoks when the two squads played Jan. 31, but it’s a win nonetheless for the Maroons (16-8, 5-4).
“I don’t think any game in the Southwestern Conference is ever easy,” Muniz said. “I didn’t think we would have the same result we had the first time we played them.”
Collinsville played host to a “pink out,” with a majority of the crowd donning pink shirts in support of Collinsville math teacher Kelley Liljegren, who is battling cancer for the third time since 2004. Even Belleville West’s players got in on it, wearing the pink shirts during pregame warmups.
The gym had a senior night environment, and the game on the court lived up to it. West led by as many as nine points, 21-12, in the second quarter, but the Kahoks (9-18, 2-10) battled back, taking a 33-30 lead in the third quarter and a 43-42 lead in the fourth.
West sophomore E.J. Liddell led all scorers with 24 points and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the foul line in the second half and overtime. Liddell blocked a 3-point attempt by Chandler Buehne with eight seconds left in regulation to preserve a 3-point lead, but no one could stop Brown, who sank a 3-pointer as time expired with two West defenders blocking his view of the rim.
“He got an upfake and got it down,” Collinsville coach Darin Lee said. “With that 1-2-2 trap, it’s hard to run a set play. We had to run the basketball until we could find somebody, and we did.”
West seniors Tyler Dancy and Dalton Fox ignored the crowd and the momentum, hitting baskets for the Maroons in the first 45 seconds of the extra period to push West’s lead to four. Dancy hit another layup later in overtime, and Liddell sealed the win with four free throws.
Freshman Ray’sean Taylor led Collinsville with 19 points, including five of the Kahoks’ seven in overtime. Lee said Friday was the first time in Collinsville history that two freshmen had started the same game, with Taylor starting alongside 6-foot-5 post player Aaron Molton. Brown had 11 points, and Buehne chipped in 10 for Collinsville. Dancy added 15 for the Maroons.