Belleville West falls to Chaminade in tournament title game
Chaminade is starting to enjoy the atmosphere at Belleville East.
The Red Devils bagged their second consecutive championship in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East on Saturday as they defeated Belleville West 81-77 in overtime.
Senior Jericole Hellems, a North Carolina State recruit who scored 19 points, was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. But it was senior Jadis White who nailed down the victory with two free throws, putting the Red Devils (14-2) ahead by four points with 3.8 seconds left.
“They got a jump on us (in overtime),” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said of Chaminade scoring the first four points of the extra session to take a 74-70 lead. “I was disappointed, but I thought our kids really battled to give ourselves a chance.”
The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak by West (17-2). Junior EJ Liddell led the Maroons with 25 points and 10 blocked shots, while senior Malachi Smith had 18 points before fouling out with 3:03 remaining in overtime.
“First and foremost, when you talk about Belleville West, they’re tough, they’re scrappy, they’ve got good players at every single position,” Chaminade coach Frank Bennett said. “Then on top of that, they’re well-coached. So when you’re going into a ballgame against them, you have to play your ‘A’ game.
“Our guys did a pretty good job of weathering the storm, being in a hostile environment where you don’t have very much fan support. That’s what you want, though. You want to test them to see how good your guys are and how they respond.”
West led 24-14 after one quarter and 39-37 at halftime, as Chaminade closed the second quarter with a 10-3 push. There was little separation from that point, with a five-point lead by the Red Devils with 4:31 to play in the third quarter being the largest advantage by either team in the second half.
Liddell recorded his ninth block of the game, against senior Henry Gladson, to give the Maroons the ball with 55 seconds to play and the game tied at 70. West held for a final shot, but Smith’s short jumper in the lane was no good with three seconds left.
“In the Centralia Tournament, it goes in,” Muniz said. “That’s the difference between winning and losing a lot of times – that one play. How do you feel if you make it? How do you feel if you don’t make it? Tonight, we didn’t make it. But our kids played well. There’s no reason to hang your head on this loss. This was two heavyweight champions going at it round for round.”
In overtime, Chaminade built a 77-73 lead, but West junior Jaylin Mosby made a free throw to trim the gap to 77-74 with 2:38 left.
Hellems fouled out with 1:40 to play as he battled Liddell for a rebound after a missed free throw by sophomore Luke Kasubke (16 points). Liddell made one free throw to make it 77-75. Gladson scored to put the Red Devils ahead 79-75, but junior Marcellus Romious countered for the Maroons to make it 79-77 with 1:17 remaining.
Red Devils junior Keyyaun Batchman (21 points) missed two free throws with 46.6 seconds left, but Liddell missed a shot in the lane, and Chaminade called timeout with 3.8 seconds left.
White was fouled before inbounding the ball, then smoothly sank both free throws to settle the matter.
“We kept it together, especially when Jericole fouled out,” Bennett said. “That’s a time when you can hang your head. It’s even a testimony to Jericole. When the foul was called, he came out and he was the five guys’ on the court best supporter. He was screaming, clapping, doing all that stuff.”
Junior Lawrence Brazil III had 13 points for West and senior Curtis Williams had 10.
Last season, Chaminade defeated Althoff 97-94 to win the championship as Hellems erupted for 47 points.
Joining Hellems, who had 71 points and 27 rebounds, on the all-tournament team were: Chaminade’s Kasubke; West’s Liddell and Smith; Champaign Central’s Khailieo Terry and Tim Finke; St. Mary’s Yuri Collins; and Belleville East’s Isaiah May.
Liddell earned the first Lloyd Elmore Award for defensive excellence. Liddell had 22 blocks in the tournament.
“He’s ridiculous. It’s amazing,” Bennett said of Liddell. “I thought we did a pretty good job for 3 1/2 quarters, then it was like, ‘Oh, we want to see how good a shot-blocker he is.’ And we found out very quickly. I’ve just never seen a kid that has the timing and the bounciness that he does. He doesn’t fall for shot fakes. He closes out from the help side quickly and his timing to block the shot is unbelievable.”
St. Mary’s 70, Champaign Central 69
The Dragons captured third place with a come-from-behind win.
St. Mary’s (16-3) fell behind 69-68 when Central senior A’Kieon Gill drove the lane and converted with 23 seconds left.
After a Dragons timeout, St. Mary’s senior Dominic Mitchell gained a step on Finke along the right baseline and scored with eight seconds left.
Central (10-7) called timeout, then dribbled to midcourt and called another timeout. The Maroons got the ball to senior Jonte Coleman in the right corner, but his 3-pointer rimmed out as time expired.
The Maroons led 33-30 at halftime and 57-47 after three quarters. The lead swelled to 13 points in the fourth quarter before St. Mary’s responded.
Junior Yuri Collins and senior Yahuza Rasas scored 16 points apiece to lead a quarter of players in double figures for the Dragons. Collins produced a game-best eight assists.
Gill topped Central with 24 points, while Finke dropped in 17 and dished out six assists.