There's nothing wrong with Belleville West's killer instinct. For the second game in a row Tuesday, the Maroons jumped out to an overpowering start.
The victim this time around was visiting Belleville East, which fell behind 26-2 in the first quarter and lost to West 82-54 in a Southwestern Conference game. The Maroons (22-2, 11-0) scored the first 16 points of the game and were never threatened. On Friday, West led host East St. Louis 23-8 after one quarter en route to a 73-54 win.
"I thought our kids came out and executed the game plan really well - defensively, especially," Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. "We caused some turnovers, we made them play quick and we were in the right spots. EJ (Liddell) got some blocks and we got some runouts. We got into a rhythm and shared the basketball. This team can do that."
Muniz said starting fast was a part of the pregame discussion. It's always the goal, but it sometimes doesn't happen in the same fashion. West made 10 of its first 13 shots in the game and was 7 of 11 in the second quarter.
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"Obviously, you want to get off to a fast start to set the tone, to set the standards here," Muniz said. "You don't want people to hang around, thinking, 'Hey, we're in this game.'"
East (10-11, 5-7) knew it was never in the game. Former Lancer Malachi Smith, a 6-foot-3 senior, scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the Maroons' overwhelming first quarter. "It was a slow start. They hit some shots," Lancers coach Jeff Creek said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we definitely didn't want to be down 16-0 or 18-0 at the start. It was tough to come back from. We couldn't get stops. We were struggling to score at the start, but if you can't get stops, you're just trading baskets and not putting a dent into the lead."
Senior Jaylen Lacey paced the Lancers with 17 points. Junior Isaiah May had 13 and senior Riley Barnes had eight. East's leading scorer, senior Jordan Yates, was held to six. East, which lost to West 64-37 on Dec. 8 at East, had 20 turnovers, 11 coming in the first half.
Liddell, a 6-7 junior, had 16 points and was his usual dominant self in the paint with seven blocks. Junior Lawrence Brazil III had 15 points and three 3-pointers, while senior Curtis Williams pumped in a season-high 13 points and was 6 of 7 from the field. Brazil missed his first shot, then made his next four, including a pair of treys. He finished 6 of 8.
"It went well for me," said Brazil, a transfer from CBC High in St. Louis. "I shot the ball well in practice and in the game." Brazil was glad to see the Maroons put the pedal to the metal. "Coach said, 'Push the ball and keep the tempo moving,'" Brazil said. "We communicated, we talked and we rebounded. Rebounding was a big part of this game."
The Maroons led 43-22 at halftime and 61-36 after three quarters. The Lancers got within 19 points at 65-46 with a little over five minutes to play, but the game was out of reach.
West is gunning for its first outright SWC championship since 2003-04. A victory Friday over visiting Collinsville would lock up the title. "That is a big deal," Muniz said. "We've just got to take it one game at a time. Tonight, we did what we needed to do to win. Friday night, we need to come out and play well against Collinsville."