Lightning-quick Nyah Ford scored a game-high 20 points and was one of four Belleville East players in double figures as the new-look Lancers captured their first title of the season by winning the Highland Girls Basketball Tournament.
Taking on a Civic Memorial team which has been ranked among the top 10 Class 3A teams in the state all season, the Lancers showed no fear in the title game, one of four pushed to Sunday by a winter storm that was supposed to drop two inches of snow and ice on the metro-east area 24 hours earlier.
The delay was no setback to the Lancers who jumped out to a 19-3 lead and never looked back in posting a 64-58 win. They improved to 15-9 for the season.
“Ever since the Hazelwood (Central) game, its been a different team. The difference? It’s been our defense. We have just really picked it up on the defensive end of the court,’’ Lancers coach Amanda Kemezys said. “The girls have really bought into what we’re tying to get them to do.
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“Civic Memorial is a great team. But because of our defense and quickness we were able to force them into some turnovers and make them take some shots that maybe they wouldn’t normally take. We knew they would make a run at us, but I was pleased with the poise we had down the stretch. This was a big win for us.’’
Chosen as the tournament most valuable player, senior Bryce Dowell added 18 for the Lancers while Kaylah Rainey (12 points) and B’Aunce Carter (11 points) were also in double figures.
Civic Memorial falls to 21-5 for the season.
Greenville rallies to win Collinsville Kiwanis Classic
Ranked second in the Class 2A state poll, Greenville (22-1) erased a large halftime deficit to edge the Kahoks 48-46 in the title game at Collinsville High School.
The Comets trailed 30-22 at halftime then outscored the host Kahoks 13-5 in the third quarter to draw even. Nancy Fritzsche led Greenville with 15 points while Bria King led the Kahoks with 14 points. Collinsville (11-9) was just 5-of-16 from the free throw line.
Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions
For the first time in over a year, the Belleville West Maroons came up short of a tournament title, placing fifth Saturday at the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions.
But after losing its first round game, West played like a champion and showed why its the top-ranked Class 4A team in Illinois.
Competing in one of the elite regular season high school events in the nation, the Maroons bounced back from a first round 74-57 loss to Shadow Mountain, Arizona with wins over Springfield (Missouri) Catholic (63-37) and Rainier Beach, Washington (73-69). at JQH Arena on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield.
Springfield Catholic is ranked second in the Missouri Class 3 poll, while Rainier Beach is ranked 14th in the ESPN poll. The 2-1 finish was even more impressive when considering that senior EJ Liddell was held to a combined 23 points and was in foul trouble for much of the first two games of the tournament.
“I am very pleased with how we played in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. I thought our kids really bounced back after Thursday’s loss and beat two really good teams in Springfield Catholic and Rainier Beach Those were to very good wins,’’ Maroons coach Joe Muniz said.
“I think this will help us tremendously down the stretch and hopefully in March. One, we were able to play against great competition and in a high pressured environment. The other thing is we had to play through a lot of adversity as well. We won both of our games with EJ on the bench with either foul trouble or a bloody nose and our kids really stepped up and found a way to win the games.”
Senior guard Lawrence Brazil III helped pick up the slack. Continuing to add to his reputation of being at his best in big games, the 6-1 Brazil had 21 points in the win over Springfield Catholic and 25 points in the victory over Rainier Beach. Liddell added 20 and senior forward Keith Randolph added 16.
Brazil was voted as the player with the most competitive spirit in the 3-day event, who led the Maroons.
“This was a great tournament for Lawrence Brazil. He just keeps getting better and better. He is playing with so much confidence right now.,’’ Muniz said. “He really kept things together for us especially when EJ was not in there.”
West returns to action on Friday when it plays host to Edwardsville and Springfield Southeast on Saturday. Southeast was the Class 3A state tournament runner-up last year and is ranked third in the Class 3A state poll..