It’s back to the Class 4A Elite Eight for the Belleville West Maroons.
A newcomer to the defending state champion’s program when the season began, senior Will Shumpert came up big when the Maroons needed him the most Friday: by scoring 21 points as West held off a Danville charge in a 95-83 East Moline Sectional championship win.
On the verge of being blown out of the gym in the first quarter when the Maroons (31-4) built a 17-point lead, Danville kept chipping away until it closed to within 47-45 early in the third quarter. Sean Houpt connected on one of the Vikings 14 three-point field goals.
But Shumpert buried a three-point jumper, and senior point guard Lawrence Brazil added a three-pointer of his own during the Maroons next possession to put West ahead by eight.
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The Vikings (30-5) didn’t quit. Connecting on eight three-point field goals in the final quarter, Danville stayed close until the final two minutes before a large group of Maroons fans who made the 260-mile trip could start celebrating.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team shoot the basketball against us like they (Danville) did against us tonight, Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “We knew they could really shoot it. But to our guys credit, they responded every time with a big play or basket. We had a tremendous practice (Thursday) especially on the offensive end. It carried over to tonight.’’
Senior EJ Liddell led West with 25 points while Brazil chipped in with 23 for the Maroons who advanced to the Normal Super-Sectional on Tuesday where they will take on Bolingbrook. The game will be played at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University beginning at 7 p.m.
Bolingbrook defeated Oswego East 66-64 at the Aurora East Sectional, also Friday night. West athletic director Lee Meyer said tickets for the super-sectional will be on sale for $8 each at the Belleville West High School bookstore from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday.
With Liddell scoring eight points, including a pair of rim-shaking dunks, Brazil connecting on two of his four three-point baskets and Keith Randolph and Shumpert adding four points each, West jumped out to leads of 14-3 and 23-6 in the opening period before settling for a 29-14 lead.
But with Danville guards Tevin Smith and Jayrin Parker finding the range with 11 points each, the Vikings closed to within 45-37 at halftime.
“That’s the way we’ve played all year. These kids don’t quit. Down 23-6, I think a lot of people might have thought we didn’t belong or that we were going to get blown out of the building,” Danville coach Ted Haupt said. “We gave everybody their money’s worth in the third quarter.’’
And gave the Maroons a scare in the process. When Sean Haupt and Smith opened the second half with three-point field goals to highlight an 8-2 spurt, the Vikings were within a basket.
That is until Shumpert and Brazil hit back-to-back three-point shots.
“Was I nervous? Maybe for a minute,’’ Shumpert said following the game. “I just tried to do what I could to help us win the ballgame. I’ve really been working hard on my offense and my shooting paid off tonight.’’
Liddell, who was seven of eight from the floor and scored 15 first-half points, added six points, including a third dunk, in the third quarter as the Maroons extended their lead back to double figures at 64-53.
“We have a very strong inside game and if you get the basketball to EJ, he’’ll find you. He’s an excellent passer,’’ Muniz said. “Will (Shumpert) had a great game for us and to have four players in double figures we shared the basketball very well.’’