Belleville West entered the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East hoping to get back on the right track. Instead, everything went wrong.
The Maroons led by 11 points in the third quarter Tuesday, but succumbed to sophomore Ryan Warren-Hogue and the McCluer Comets 67-66.
“No. 4 is a really dynamic player,” West coach Joe Muniz said of the 5-foot-6 Warren-Hogue, who led all scorers with 30 points. “He’s probably one of the best guards we’ll see all year.”
Warren-Hogue made three 3-pointers and had a sensational steal and layup in the third quarter. As he was driving to the rim, Warren-Hogue faked a pass by hiding the ball on his outside hip before dropping in the uncontested shot.
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Sophomore Anthony Harris added 15 points for the Comets (5-6), including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:24 to play, and sophomore Ryan Neil chipped in with 10 points.
McCluer coach Brent Rueter said word about Warren-Hogue’s talent is spreading.
“Ryan’s very good,” Rueter said. “He opened a lot of eyes (when) he played AAU ball out in Kansas City in the summer. Not too many people know about him because he was out there, but he’s opening more eyes in this area now.”
Rueter has witnessed Warren-Hogue’s razzle-dazzle layups before, and he gives him the liberty to use them whenever possible.
“His ballhandling skills are pretty amazing; he’s done that before in practice,” Rueter said. “He’s so creative with the ball. Some of the things in practice, I’m surprised that he does. I can’t say I taught him that or anything. But if it goes in and he doesn’t turn the ball over, I’m going to let him be creative.”
Senior Eugene Jones led the Maroons (5-10) with 24 points. Sophomore Tyler Dancy had 16. West hurt itself by going 9-for-14 from the free-throw line.
“Every mistake we made, they capitalized on in the last four minutes of the game,” said Muniz, whose team led 60-49 when Dancy had a runout dunk on a nice midcourt feed from sophomore Jack Lanxon with 4:26 left in the game. “We didn’t make free throws, we didn’t block out twice and they got offensive rebounds and putbacks.
“This one hurts.”
It was a back-and-forth contest throughout. McCluer led 16-8 in the first quarter, but the Maroons outscored the Comets 19-11 in the second quarter to lead 34-29 at the half.
West boosted its advantage to 46-38 on a basket by Dancy with 2:26 to play in the third quarter, but the Comets went ahead 47-46 on Warren-Hogue’s circus layup that culminated an 11-0 outburst.
The Maroons went on a 14-2 run to start the fourth quarter as they stretched their lead to 11. Warren-Hogue popped a 3-pointer to make it 60-52, but a pair of free throws by senior Demond White put West ahead 63-55 with 2:45 remaining.
Warren-Hogue’s 3-pointer opened a 12-1 run. The shot cut the Comets’ deficit to 63-58, and junior Josh Haskin followed with a putback to make it 63-60 with 2:04 left.
White’s free throw made it 64-60, but Harris scored on a drive and a go-ahead 3-pointer, and Warren-Hogue sank two free throws to make it 67-64.
After a West turnover, Warren-Hogue missed a free throw with 15 seconds left. The Maroons called their final timeout with 12.8 seconds to play, then broke McCluer’s press before Lanxon missed a 3-pointer from the right side.
Dancy grabbed the rebound and scored uncontested just ahead of the final buzzer.
“It’s disappointing because we had the right guys out there and we had everything going out way,” Muniz said. “We just didn’t do a very good job executing down the stretch. We didn’t do enough to win the game.”
Belleville East 63, Normandy 14: Sophomore Javon Pickett scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Lancers to a resounding victory over the outmatched Vikings.
Mercifully, there was a running clock in the fourth quarter. Normandy (3-12) finally reached double figures with 2:30 to play in the game. East’s reserves played most of the second half.
“Any win, we’ll take,” Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. “Our guys did some good things, and we’ll try to move on. Friday and Saturday are going to be much tougher tests.
East (6-10), which has won three of its last five, will play St. Louis University High on Friday and McCluer on Saturday.
“We went through a bad stretch there,” Schrader said. “We lost six in a row, and a couple of them got away from us. The physicality and the size of the top few teams in our (Southwestern) conference, we’ve got to figure out a way to compete with that. Our kids have kept working. We’ve got to continue to get better.”