Boys Basketball

Top-seeded Belleville West makes a statement in win over O’Fallon

Belleville West’s EJ Liddell slams home a monster dunk

Belleville West basketball star EJ Liddell threw a pass to himself off the backboard and then dunked it during the Maroons game with St. Louis Vashon during the championship game of the Highland Shootout.
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Belleville West basketball star EJ Liddell threw a pass to himself off the backboard and then dunked it during the Maroons game with St. Louis Vashon during the championship game of the Highland Shootout.

After a somewhat sluggish finish to an otherwise excellent regular season, Belleville West senior Keith Randolph and the rest of the Maroons made their statement loud and clear Tuesday at the Class 4A Belleville West Regional Tournament.

Senior EJ Liddell helped set the stage early with a pair of show-stopping dunks and Lawrence Brazil III added a pair of 3-point jumpers to highlight a 26-0 first half scoring run as the top-seeded Maroons rolled to an easy 71-32 win over the O’Fallon Panthers.

Playing with renewed intensity and suffocating the Panthers (12-18) with unrelenting defensive pressure, the Maroons (28-4) connected on eight of their first nine shots and held O’Fallon scoreless over the final 5 minutes 30 seconds of the first quarter to take a 25-5 lead.

“We wanted to make a statement tonight that we’re back. We’ve all talked about how we played around a little bit in the regular season. The postseason, its a whole new level. We have to take every step serious now,’’ Randolph said. “We wanted to make a statement, in case anybody was watching, that this is what the rest of the postseason is going to look like.’’

Brazil and Will Shumpert added baskets in the opening 90 seconds of the second quarter as the Maroons’ lead grew to 31-5 before O’Fallon sophomore Shaun Riley ended the streak with a 15-foot jumper. The Panthers would get no closer than 21 points the rest of the night.

The win sends the defending Class 4A state champion Maroons into the regional title game at 7 p.m. Friday. There they will play the winner of the other semifinal between Quincy and Chatham-Glenwood.

The Quincy-Chatham Glenwood game is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Belleville West. But if their performance on Tuesday is any indication, the Maroons will be a tough out for any Class 4A team.

“I thought our kids came out focused and played with a lot of energy. But the big thing was that I thought we guarded very well,’’ West coach Joe Muniz said. “I thought we sped O’Fallon up and made them do things they didn’t want to do.

“I also thought we were focused on offense. We got the ball where we wanted and our guys adjusted from there. We took what the defense gave us tonight. We didn’t force anything.’’

Liddell led the Maroons attack with 14 points. The Ohio State University recruit brought the large crowd to its feet three times with dunks, including one to close the first half when he went end-to-end in the final seconds. West led 42-11 at halftime.

Senior Jaylin Mosby and sophomore Tommie Williams added 11 points each for the Maroons, while Randolph, Shumpert and Liddell helped the Maroons dominate on the backboards.

“Keith (Randolph) had a ton of offensive boards tonight. I don’t know how many he had. But he had six points and played good defense and did all the little things which is what Keith is good at,’’ Muniz said. “When we move the basketball and get good shots like did tonight, this team is tough to stop because we’ve got five guys who can all score.

“This was a good team win tonight.’’

Riley led O’Fallon with 10 points.

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.

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