Boys Basketball

Belleville West, East St. Louis top area hopes as Class 3A-4A postseason begins

The Belleville West Maroons and East St. Louis Flyers are the top seeds for their respective IHSA regional-sectional complexes which begin play throughout central and southern Illinois this week.

The reigning Class 4A state champion Maroons begin defense of their title at the Belleville West Regional which begins on Monday when O”Fallon (11-17) takes on Belleville East (11-18) at 7 p.m. West (27-4), ranked second in the Class 4A state poll, will play the winner of that game at 7 p.m,. on Tuesday.

Quincy takes on Chatham-Glenwood in the other semifinal on Wednesday with the winners battling for the regional title on Friday at 7 p.m.

Collinsville (26-5), ranked ninth in Class 4A, is also hosting a regional. Seeded-second in their half of the East Moline Sectional Complex, the Kahoks could face third-seed Alton (20-9-1) in the title game on Friday. Other regionals feeding into the East Moline Sectional are being played at Pekin and Champaign Centennial High Schools.

The four regional champions advance to the East Moline Sectional, March 5th and 8th.

In Class 3A, Southwestern Conference champion East St. Louis (23-6) has earned a top-seed in the Mascoutah Sectional Complex and will compete in the (Breese) Central Regional beginning on Tuesday. The Flyers, ranked fourth in the Class 3A state poll, face a possible showdown with fourth-seeded Mater Dei in the regional title game on Friday.

South Seven Conference champion Althoff and Mississippi Valley Conference champion Highland are top seeds in their regionals and have earned No. 2 seeds overall.

Althoff (16-12) is the top-seed at the Freeburg Regional and will face either host Freeburg or South Seven Conference rival Cahokia in its first round game at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Highland (26-5) is the top seed at the Salem Regional and will take on either Centralia or Benton in a firST round game at 7 p.m.

Carbondale is the top seed at the Massic County Regional. The four Class 3A regional champions will compete at the Mascoutah Sectional on March 5-6th and 8th.

Following are individual regional tournament capsules for local Class 3A-4A teams.

Class 4A Belleville West Regional

Seeds: 1. Belleville West, 4. Chatham-Glenwood, 5. Quincy, 8. O’Fallon, 9. Belleville East

Favorite: Belleville West

Could Surprise: Chatham-Glenwood

Synopsis: The Maroons have been as good as advertised for much of the season despite competing against some of the top teams in the nation and in A Southwestern Conference featuring three top 10 ranked schools and an Alton squad which won 20 games. The reigning Illinois Mr.Basketball EJ Liddell (20.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.8 blocked shots) has been unstoppable for much of the season while seniors Will Shumpert, Keith Randolph and Lawrence Brazil have also been outstanding. Chatham-Glenwood (19-10) is a solid team while both O’Fallon and Belleville East played Belleville West tough the second time around the SWC circuit.

Class 4A Collinsville Regional

Seeds: 2. Collinsville, 3. Alton, 6. Springfield, 7. Granite City, 10, Edwardsville

Favorite: Collinsville

Could Surprise: Alton

Synopsis: Led by super-smooth junior guard Ray’Sean Taylor and super-quick point guard Cawhan Smith, the Kahoks have been one of the top Class 4A teams in the state all season. Ranked ninth in the Class 4A state poll, Collinsville (26-5) split a pair od decisions with third-seeded Alton (20-9-1), including a 14 point win (75-61) two weeks ago. Collinsville has also beaten Belleville West and East St. Louis in the past two weeks. Alton is perhaps the most dangerous team in the regional and capable of beating any team on any given night. Senior Donovan Clay, a 6-7 guard, averages 19 points and is one of the top players in the state in any class.

Class 3A Freeburg Regional

Seeds: 2. Althoff, 3. Herrin, 6. Columbia, 8. Freeburg, 10. Cahokia, 12. Waterloo

Favorite: Althoff

Could Surprise: Herrin, Columbia

Synopsis: Without a senior on its roster Althoff has been one of the surprise teams in the metro east this season, finishing the regular season as the South Seven Conference champions and with a record of 16-12. Hall of Fame coach Greg Leib’s team will be without Daulton Burgner (ankle) for early rounds, but the Crusaders do have Greg Wells (13.4 ppg) and a crew which has been at its best in close games. Third seed Herrin (24-4) is also a threat as is Columbia (18-12). The Eagles are led by Cole Khoury (12.7) and Jon Peterson (11.8).

Class 3A Central Regional

Seeds: 1. East St. Louis, 4. Mater Dei, 5. Central, 10. Civic Memorial, 11. Roxana, 12. Wood River

Favorite: East St. Louis

Could Surprise: Mater Dei, Central

Synopsis: Despite a regular season ending loss at Collinsville on Friday, the Flyers (23-6) are playing as well as any Class 3A team in the state heading into the playoffs with 12 wins in 13 games. The Southwestern Conference champions have the dominant player in Terrence Hargrove (19.1 ppg., 9 rebounds, 3.1 blocked shots) who can take over a game at anytime, two excellent forwards in Richard Robinson and Elijah Rice and another perimeter scorer in Cornelius LeFlore (10.7) to lead second year coach Mark Chambers’ squad. Both Mater Dei (20-11), led by Caleb Zurliene (12.7) and host Central (18-12), paced by Simon Thomas (12.4) are longshots to knock off the Flyers.

Class 3A Salem Regional

Seeds: 2. Highland, 3. Salem, 6. Mount Vernon, 7. Centralia, 8. Benton, 9. Triad

Favorite: Highland

Could Surprise: Salem, Mount Vernon

Synopsis: The Bulldogs (26-5) have had a tremendous season, romping through the Mississippi Valley Conference with a perfect 10-0 mark and are a heavy favorite this week in Salem. Senior Sam LaPorta (15.0 ppg.) leads a balanced Highland attack which also features Jake Kruse (11.8) and Steven Torre (10.1). The Bulldogs are also a very good defensive team, allowing only 47 points per game. Salem (17-11), playing on its home court, is a threat as is always disciplines Mounrt Vernon (16-10) which gives up 48 points per game.

Class 3A Massac County Regional

Seeds: 1. Carbondale 4, Mascoutah, 5. Marion, 7. Murphysboro, 9. Massac County, 11. Carterville

Favorite: Carbondale

Could Surprise: Mascoutah

Synopsis: The top-seeded Terriers (25-5) are athletic and quick and clearly the team to beat at Massac County. But Mascoutah (20-11) is more than capable of pulling off the regional title. The Indians are athletic with senior Malik Green (10.7) and Shawn Wienstroer (10,6) leading a lineup which has four players averaging 8.8 points or better per game.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.