Belleville West basketball's EJ Liddell talks about 43-point game
EJ Liddell scored a career-high 43 points Wednesday to eclipse 1,000 in his career as third-seeded Belleville West dismantled sixth-seeded Belleville East 89-73 in the semifinals of the Class 4A Belleville East Regional.
“We just wanted to come out (hard),” said Liddell, who was 19 of 25 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. “We’re trying to win the regional, and I just had to do my part on the team. That’s how we got the victory tonight.”
Belleville West was 40 of 57 from the field (70 percent).
West (19-8) will meet Southwestern Conference foe East St. Louis (18-7), the second seed, in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. The Flyers were 2-0 against West in the regular season.
Liddell, whose previous high was 33 points, also against East, had just two points after one quarter. But he erupted for 19 in the second quarter, 11 in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth quarter. He operated with impunity in the lane, capitalizing on the Lancers’ size disadvantage.
“This was a city rivalry (game). We had to show we were the best in Belleville,” said Liddell, whose team split four games with the Lancers. “That’s what we came out here and did.”
Liddell, who has started every game of his career, has 1,007 points in his career.
“He’s a special kid,” West coach Joe Muniz said. “He’s a very humble kid. His teammates got him the ball. We’re playing really well right now, and we’re very unselfish. He stepped up, but his teammates really fed him the ball.”
The Maroons led just 22-20 after Liddell scored with 5:23 to play in the second quarter. Lancers senior Javon Pickett injured his right ankle with 4:58 left in the period and was helped off the floor and into the trainer’s room.
Pickett returned with 3:01 to play in the quarter, but by then, the Maroons had built a 31-24 lead. They extended the gap to 43-28 at halftime, using a 12-0 run that featured two dunks by Liddell and a 3-point play by sophomore Keith Randolph.
East (16-13) was no closer than 12 points in the final two quarters as the Maroons’ were unrelenting on offense. They scored 27 points in the second and third quarters and 19 in the fourth.
“We didn’t have the answer for (Liddell) defensively,” East coach Abel Schrader said. “We tried different things, but he was good. He was really good, and he hurt us. ... We had 6-foot guarding 6-foot-7 at times. It didn’t work out. That’s a very good basketball team.”
Senior Elijah Powell also enjoyed a career-high with 17 points for the Maroons. Senior DeAndre Jackson had nine.
Pickett, heading for Illinois, had 27 points in his final game and finished with 1,775 in his career. Senior Rico Sylvester had 21 points and five 3-pointers, finishing his career with 1,198 points. Junior Malachi Smith had 12 points.