Collinsville has clearly established itself as a team on the rise.
But the Kahoks on Friday weren’t ready to go toe-to-toe with the No. 3-ranked team in the Class 4A state poll. Belleville West took control in the first quarter of a 67-56 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.
It was the 12th consecutive victory for the Maroons (15-1 overall, 7-0 Southwestern Conference). The Kahoks fell to 10-7 and 2-5.
“I was disappointed with the way the score ended, but at the same time, any time you win on the road and play the way we played, I’m really happy,” said West coach Joe Muniz, whose team led 21-4 less than six minutes into the game and 58-28 midway through the third quarter.
Senior Malachi Smith led all scorers with 18 points. Junior EJ Liddell had 12 points and junior Lawrence Brazil III had 10. The Maroons made eight 3-pointers, seven of them in the first half.
“We got the ball moving around,” said Brazil, the Maroons’ point guard. “Coach tells us to go out and play like every game counts, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Any hopes Collinsville had of an upset were quashed early. The Kahoks tried using both a zone and man-to-man defense. Nothing worked.
“They played well. They blitzed us early,” said Collinsville coach Darin Lee, whose team trailed 48-21 at halftime after Smith popped a 3-pointer at the horn. “They did a great job offensively, but their defense was good, too. They’re a very good team. They’re excellent.
“It’s disappointing. We think we can do a better job than that. It’s disappointing we didn’t get off to a better start. We got down so much early. I think we’ll learn some things about how to play against them. Hopefully, next time we’ll be better.”
Sophomore Ray’Sean Taylor led the Kahoks with 16 points, while junior Marshall Harrison had 13. Collinsville’s 6-foot-5 post players, sophomore Keydrian Jones and Aaron Molton, were in foul trouble most of the game. Each finished with six points.
Collinsville’s deficit was 25-12 after one quarter. The Maroons then opened the second quarter with a 16-6 spree that made it 41-18.
Muniz pulled his starters in the third and fourth quarters, and the Kahoks trimmed a 65-39 deficit in the fourth quarter to 67-56 over a period of 4:43.
“Our biggest thing is we didn’t need anybody to get injured,” Muniz said. “But those guys that finished the game are good players. They didn’t play well. Give Collinsville credit. They continued to play.”
Muniz, a Collinsville graduate, knows how tough the Kahoks can be at home.
“They’re a good team. They finished second in their Christmas tournament and they’ve played people tough,” Muniz said. “This is a great win, and the style that we did it was even better. I wouldn’t say they’re not up to our level. I think we played really well tonight. Historically, we have not played well here.”