Belleville West was unable to slay St. Louis power Chaminade in the championship game of the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East on Jan. 17.
But the Maroons on Saturday made sure the Webster Groves Statesmen, ranked No. 1 in the Missouri Class 5 poll, weren’t as fortunate.
Junior EJ Liddell had a game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds and senior Malachi Smith dropped in 18 points and had four steals to lead the Maroons, ranked third in the Class 4A poll in Illinois, to a 78-67 victory in the finale of the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout.
“Webster Groves is a really good team; they won state last year,” said Liddell, who was 11 of 17 from the field and 10 of 14 from the free-throw line. “Chaminade is a really good team, too. We just had to come back and avenge ourselves and play together to get this victory.”
Junior Keith Randolph Jr. chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds for West (20-2), and senior Curtis Williams came off the bench to score eight points, including four in the fourth quarter that helped the Maroons break open a tight game.
Senior Courtney Ramey had 24 points and six assists for the Statesmen (12-7) before fouling out with 43.9 seconds left. Webster Groves played without 6-foot-8 senior Carte’Are Gordon, a Saint Louis University recruit who is serving a two-week suspension.
“They’re a good team and so are we,” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “I thought our kids responded to their runs really, really well. We didn’t really come out and guard like we thought we could guard in the first quarter. We made an adjustment and they struggled with our zone. We really picked it up.”
The Maroons led 51-41 in the third quarter, but Webster Groves closed the period with a 9-0 run to get within 51-50. Ramey’s 3-pointer opened the fourth quarter and gave Webster Groves a 53-51 lead while extending its surge to 12-0.
But Liddell had a three-point play, and after Ramey made two free throws, Liddell had a rebound basket to make it 56-54 with 6:06 to play. The Maroons never trailed again.
Webster Groves junior Amorey Womack hit a 3-pointer to cut the Statesmen’s deficit to 62-60 with 3:33 left, but Williams scored on a reverse layup, then had another layup 25 seconds later to make it 66-60. Smith followed with two free throws and a layup on a slick feed from Liddell to make it 70-60 with 1:58 to play.
“Curtis Williams had some huge, huge baskets,” Muniz said. “EJ garners so much attention that if our other guys play and move, they’re going to get easy shots.”
Liddell had two monster dunks in the game, the first coming in the opening minute and the second coming with eight seconds left. Ramey had a breath-taking dunk over Liddell in the third quarter that had the large crowd buzzing.
“Things happen,” Liddell said. “I jump for a lot of things. It was going to happen eventually. I challenge a lot of shots at the rim, so I’m not really upset about it. He got the dunk. It’s only two points. It’s not that big of a deal. ... Courtney is a good player. He plays hard.”
West shot 53 percent (28 of 53) and outrebounded the Statesmen 37-27. The Maroons outscored Webster Groves 22-5 on fast-break points and had 18 assists.
Webster Groves shot 43 percent (23 of 54).
“Down the stretch, we had a couple of bad possessions and there were a couple of other times when we took an ill-advised shot or two,” Webster Groves coach Jay Blossom said. “But let’s give credit to Belleville West. That’s a very well-coached team with one great player and several very good ones.”
Senior R.J. Wright made two free throws with 6:44 to play in the second quarter, handing the Statesmen a 27-20 advantage. They didn’t score again, however, until the 1:48 mark. By then, the Maroons, using a 1-2-2 zone, had gone on a 13-0 run to take a 33-27 lead.
Liddell opened the flurry with a putback. Moments later, he blocked a shot in the lane by Ramey, which led to a runout basket at other end by Smith.
Liddell scored seven of the Maroons’ points in the run, with Smith collecting four and junior Jaylin Mosby getting two. West’s lead was 36-29 at halftime.
“We had that one rough stretch in the second quarter when they hit a few shots and had a run on us,” Blossom said. “But overall, I’m pleased. We came back and took the lead until we fell short there in the fourth quarter.”