Boys Basketball

Defending state champion Belleville West tops first AP Class 4A basketball poll +

Steal, layup in final seconds clinch state title for Belleville West

Belleville West junior Lawrence Brazil III stole the ball and laid it in to give the Maroons their first state basketball championship.
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Belleville West junior Lawrence Brazil III stole the ball and laid it in to give the Maroons their first state basketball championship.

The defending Class 4A state champion Belleville West Maroons continue to show no signs of resting on past accomplishments in the early part of the 2018-19 season.

Fresh off a pair of wins at the Marshall County. (Ky.) Hoopfest last weekend, the Maroons (6-0) are ranked first in the Associated Press IHSA Class 4A state basketball poll released on Wednesday.

The Maroons, who opened the season by winning the Washington Tournament of Champions, collected eight of nine first place votes and have 89 points. Voting is done by a panel of sportswriters from around the state.

Chicago Whitney Young (2-0), which lost to Belleville West in the state title game in March, collected the other first place vote and is ranked second. Undefeated Bloomington (6-0), (Chicago Heights) Bloom Township (6-0) and Chicago Cutie (5-0) round out the top five. Collinsville (7-1), which suffered its only loss of the season on Tuesday at East St. Louis, also received votes in the Class 4A poll.

Also ranked in the first regular season poll of the season are East St. Louis (3A), Nashville (2A) and Madison (1A)

The Maroons quick start has been led by senior E.J. Liddell. The reigning Illinois Mr. Basketball, Liddell is averaging 30 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocked shots while getting plenty of help from seniors Keith Randolph (8.5 ppg, 10.7 rebounds), Lawrence Brazil III (9.5 ppg. 5 assists) and Will Shumpert (12.5 ppg., 6 rebounds)

Shumpert, a transfer from (St. Louis) Christian Brothers College Prep (CBC), scored 23 points in the Maroons 74-68 win over Callaway, (Miss.) on Saturday.

“Will has done a nice job thus far. He has shot the ball really well and has given us another scorer in our our lineup,’’ West coach Joe Muniz said. “ I think his defense and rebounding has gotten better and better each game.

“Having big bodies like EJ, Will, Keith, and Marcellus (Romious) have really worn our opponents out thus far in the fourth quarter. Our big guys are really a handful to keep off the boards.

The Maroons will host city rival Belleville East (4-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Lancers have won four their last five games after starting the season 0-2.. Although happy with the start, Muniz knows the Maroons must be more consistent.

“I think we have played pretty well thus far. We are still a long way from being where we need to be, but as of right now I feel we are playing pretty well,’’ Muniz said. “We just need to be more consistent in all areas of the game.’’

Nashville ranked first in Class 2A

Fresh of a win at the Wesclin Thanksgiving Tournament, the Nashville Hornets (5-0) are ranked first in the Class 2A state poll. The Hornets collected three first place votes and have 81 points. Chicago Leo (4-1) grabbed four first place votes but are a distant second with 65 points.

The East St. Louis Flyers are ranked fourth in the Class 3A state poll. Under second year coach Mark Chambers, East St. Louis has opened Southwestern Conference play with wins over Belleville East and Collinsville. Defending Mississippi Valley Conference champion Highland (6-1) also received votes.

In Class 1A, Madison (1-1) is ranked ninth while defending state champion Okawville (3-2) received votes

Edwardsville, Civic Memorial top area girls teams

Despite the graduation of all-state players Rachel Pranger and Kate Martin, the Edwardsville Tigers remain one of the top Class 4A girls teams in the state.

Currently 8-1 for the season, Edwardsville is ranked fifth in the Class 4A poll and is one of four metro east teams to earn votes in the first regular season state poll of the season.

(Bethalto) Civic Memorial (8-0) is ranked fifth in the Class 3A poll, while Highland ( 7-1) and Mater Dei (6-0) also received votes but did not crack the top 10 in the Class 3A poll.