EJ Liddell leads West basketball past O’Fallon
EJ Liddell scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half, and the Belleville West Maroons barely broke a sweat Tuesday in a 72-50 win over O’Fallon in a Southwestern Conference game.
Looking to extend their winning streak to five and carry the momentum into a nine-day Christmas break, the Maroons (8-1, 5-0) started with a rush. With Liddell scoring 12 points in the opening quarter and Keith Randolph and Malachi Smith combining for eight more, West led 24-13 after ending the period with a 7-0 scoring run.
Junior guard Lawrence Brazil scored on a pair of jumpers off turnovers early in the second quarter, and the Maroons’ lead ballooned to 30-13 with more than five minutes left in the first half.
“I was very pleased at how we came out and played. We shot the ball well, and I thought we were unselfish. We moved the ball well and got good shots,” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “On defense we did a good job of forcing them out on the court. They hit some shots, but I thought we made them earn everything they got. Nothing came easy for them.”
Leading 48-27 at halftime, West led by as many as 32 points early in the quarter. Liddell, showing his perimeter game, hit his third and final 3-point basket midway through the third quarter, finishing with 26 points and sitting out the final 12 minutes of the game.
Smith added 10 points for West, which will not play again until Dec. 28 at the Centralia Holiday Tournament. The Maroons will take on Collierville (Tenn.) in their first-round game at 2 p.m.
The win over O’Fallon (4-4, 2-3) also moves Joe Muniz to 3-0 all-time against his younger brother, Panthers coach Brian Muniz. Brian Muniz, in his second season at O’Fallon, lost both meetings a year ago to West.
Senior guard Jalen Hodge made three 3-pointers and finished with 19 points to lead the way for O’Fallon, while Terron Bowman added 12 points on four 3-pointers. But the Panthers’ inside game was held in check by the Maroons’ front line of Liddell, Randolph and Smith.
“They’re are big and they have a lot of talent. But we didn’t help ourselves at all tonight. We turned the ball over against their pressure and just didn’t do a very good job of handling the basketball,” Brian Muniz said. “But on defense, they are so good because even if you get around them, they’ve got the shot-blockers inside.”
O’Fallon is also competing in the Centralia Tournament and will take on the Evanston Wildcats at 6 p.m. Dec. 28.
Joe Muniz, although pleased at the way his Maroons have played in the early going, plans on using the break to improve in several areas of the game.
“These next four days, we’re going to look at us and work on the areas that we feel need to improve for us to reach and become the kind of basketball team that we want to be heading into the rest of the season,” he said.
O’Fallon 57, Belleville West 30 (girls)
O’Fallon senior Sydney Thurwalker came back to haunt her former team, scoring 18 points as O’Fallon (9-1, 5-1) rolled past the Maroons in a Southwestern Conference game.
A physical 5-foot-11 forward, Thurwalker scored 12 of her points in the first half as O’Fallon took a 30-7 lead. That lead grew to 43-7 midway through the third quarter before West tallied 18 points in the final nine minutes of the game.
Thurwalker played at West for three years before transferring to O’Fallon before the 2017-18 school year.
Amelia Bell chipped in with 10 points for O’Fallon.
Shaniah Nunn led Belleville West (1-9, 1-4) with 12 points.