Boys Basketball

SWC at the E was a success. But will it return in 2018?

Belleville East’s Jaylen Lacey drives against East St. Louis’ Jashawn Anderson during Saturday’s SWC event at SIUE’s Vadalabene Center.
Belleville East’s Jaylen Lacey drives against East St. Louis’ Jashawn Anderson during Saturday’s SWC event at SIUE’s Vadalabene Center. For the News-Democrat

For the second year in a row, the Southwestern Conference showcased its teams and players in a four-game boys basketball extravaganza called SWC at the E.

All eight teams in the SWC played at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Vadalabene Center in front of a full grandstand Saturday. Ticket gate figures were not kept, but league athletic directors estimated a total crowd of between 2,500 and 3,000.

Belleville West’s EJ Liddell and East St. Louis’ Terrence Hargrove Jr., two highly touted recruits, were the main draws.

But there also was Joe Reece, of East St. Louis, and West senior and Wright State University recruit Malachi Smith, along with Kevin Caldwell, of Alton; Jalen Hodge, of O’Fallon; Jack Marinko, of Edwardsville; and Ray-Sean Taylor, of Collinsville. All will be playing college basketball at a high level in the near future.

In short, the event was a hit.

“We were pleased with how everything went this year,” SWC commissioner Bill Schmidt said. “The crowd was good, and I think the people who attended really enjoyed themselves.

“The first one (in 2016) I think people were intrigued about the format and how everything worked out. Plus last year was an exceptional year in that you had the four Division-I athletes in Mark Smith and A.J. Epenesa, of Edwardsville; Javon Pickett, of Belleville East; and Jeremiah Tilmon, of East St. Louis.”

Schmidt said that from the response he received on Saturday, people enjoyed themselves.

“I spoke with many people on Saturday and the response was ... that they hope we will have it again next year,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to talk about it at the next conference meeting and see what the schools want to do. With Granite City leaving the SWC, it will leave us with an odd number of teams — seven. So we will need a different format.”

Liddell and Smith helped Belleville West ease past Edwardsville in the marquee Saturday, while Hargrove and Reece led East St. Louis, which outlasted Belleville East.

Collinsville’s Ray’Sean Taylor put on a 25-point show to bring the Kahoks back from a 13-point halftime deficit, but O’Fallon held on for the win thanks to a shower of 3-pointers. Jalen Hodge led the way for the Panthers with 24 points.

Okawville falls short in Kaskaskian Classic

Pinckneyville built a 12-10 lead after one quarter and slowly pulled away for a 61-49 win over Okawville in the title game of the Kaskaskian Classic on Saturday at Carlyle High School.

The Class 1A state tournament runner-up a year ago when it finished 31-4, Okawville received 11 points each from Payten Harre and Luke Hensler in the title game. The Rockets are now 3-1 on the season. Flora edged Freeburg 64-61 in the third-place game.

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