Boys Basketball

West to face traditional power Quincy

Belleville West senior Malachi Smith (11) is one of the Maroons' leaders in their memorable 29-2 season.
Belleville West senior Malachi Smith (11) is one of the Maroons' leaders in their memorable 29-2 season. jim@jjsphotographyplus.com

Joe Muniz celebrated his birthday Monday.

Muniz would like nothing more than to extend the party through at least Friday.

Muniz, the Belleville West boys basketball coach, will guide the Maroons (27-2) into the semifinals of the Class 4A Pekin Sectional and a semifinal game against Quincy (23-4) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Alton High School.

"I think you're going to see two really good teams play each other," Muniz said. "Quincy is a very good team. They've got two really good shooters and play a style we don't see a whole lot around here with the 1-2-2 ball press as their primary defense. A lot of teams do it, but they do it as a secondary or third defense.

"But our kids will be up to the challenge. That's one thing about our kids: The bigger the game, the better. They don't mind it. We've got a really good team; they've got a good team."

The Maroons, ranked second in the state, won the O'Fallon Regional with victories against Belleville East and Edwardsville, the latter of which ended coach Mike Waldo's 30-year run with the Tigers.

The Belleville West boys basketball team won the IHSA Class 4A Regional Championship game against the Edwardsville Tigers at the OTHS Panther Dome.

The West-Quincy winner will play in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Pekin High, against the winner of the other semifinal between Moline (19-7) and Rock Island (18-11). Moline will play Rock Island at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pekin.

Quincy is a perimeter-oriented team led by 5-foot-11 senior Aaron Shoot and 5-9 junior Jaeden Smith. Senior Ben Amos is a 6-5 center who represents the Blue Devils' only size ingredient.

West, meanwhile, has 6-foot-7 junior EJ Liddell, 6-5 junior Keith Randolph Jr. and 6-3 senior Malachi Smith. Liddell averages 20.9 points and 8.2 rebounds and six blocks. Smith averages 15.9 points and 6.1 rebounds, while junior guard Lawrence Brazil III averages 10.3 points with 44 3-pointers.

"One of our strengths is our size," Muniz said. "They've got a nice big kid, but they don't have an extraordinary amount of size. So I think that's going to help us. Our size with our guards is going to help us, too, because we're a long, lanky group. And the other thing that's helped us all season long is our depth. We don't lose much when we bring guys off the bench."

Smith led Quincy past Alton 57-36 in the Quincy Regional title game Friday, as Smith scored 19 points and made five 3-pointers. Shoot finished with 13 points and Amos had 11.

Belleville West boys basketball coach Joe Muniz talks about his team's win over Edwardsville at the OTHS Panther Dome in the IHSA Class 4A Regional Championship game.

Muniz said Shoot is a dangerous player who the Maroons must be aware of at all times.

"He reminds me of (Jack) Marinko," Muniz said, referring to the senior star at Edwardsville. "We're seeing back-to-back Marinkos. He can score from anywhere on the floor and he can score in a variety of ways. Off the dribble. Deep 3s. Pull-up jumpers. He's a very good player.

"And Jaeden Smith, when he crosses halfcourt, I think he's in range. In the regional championship against Alton, his first two shots were from 30 feet. He missed the first one, made the second one. He has no conscience. He's one of those kids we can't let get going. We can't let him get a hot hand. If he does, or if Shoot does, we're going to be in for a long night."

Junior Jirehl Brock also has caught Muniz's eyes.

"He's great at the point of their zone, he's a great athlete and he's probably their best athlete," Muniz said. "He's probably their best rebounder. He's an unsung hero. You can't fall asleep on him."

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