EJ Liddell scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half Tuesday — and got plenty of help from Lawrence Brazil III — as Belleville West defeated Belleville East 69-52 in a semifinal game at the Class 4A O'Fallon Regional.
Ranked second in the Class 4A state poll, the Maroons led just 23-17 at halftime. But Liddell scored 10 points and blocked four shots in the opening four minutes of the third quarter as West opened a 12-point lead.
Belleville East (12-18) would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the night as West (26-2) advanced to the title game at 7 p.m. Friday against O'Fallon or Edwardsville. Those teams face each other in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The game, as expected, was a physical one from the outset. With senior guard Curtis Williams scoring seven points, West jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first quarter.
But as the game got even more physical in the second quarter, East closed to within 23-17 and had three chances to get even closer in the final two minutes of the half. The Lancers could not convert.
Liddell picked up his second foul midway through the second quarter and spent time on the bench. With the 6-foot-7 all-stater out of the game, East kept it close.
"To say the game was physical is an understatement," West coach Joe Muniz said. "(East coach) Jeff Creek deserves a lot of credit for the way his kids play. They play hard every time they step on the floor.
"There was a time in the first half when I thought they had us rushing our offense a little more than we would have liked. But I thought we did a good job of keeping our composure."
Junior Isaiah May scored seven of his 11 points in the first half to lead the way for East. But the Lancers also committed 14 first-half turnovers.
"We wanted the game to be a little sloppy, and it was," Creek said. "We just turned the basketball over a little too much.
"These kids came out and played hard every night. We did that again tonight."
But Liddell went to work in the third quarter. On West's first three possessions, Liddell scored twice in the post, then stepped out and hit a 3-point jumper from the baseline. On the defensive end, Liddell had two blocked shots, a steal and two rebounds.
Brazil, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, scored on consecutive layups and added a pair of free throws as the Maroons built their lead to 14 points midway through the third quarter.
Brazil and Liddell also combined to go 12 of 12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.