After a summer of team workouts and open gyms followed by a tight Southwestern Conference schedule, the season has come down to one game for a trip to the Class 3A-4A State Basketball Tournament for the Belleville West Maroons and East St. Louis Flyers.
The conference champion Flyers and defending Class 4A state champion Maroons face athletic opponents on Tuesday in super-sectional games at Bank of Springfield Center and Redbird Arena in Normal.
East St. Louis (27-6) will take on hometown favorite Springfield Southeast (30-2) in the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional while Belleville West (31-4) plays Bolingbrook (23-7) in the Normal Super-Sectional. Both games begin at 7 p.m. with the winners advancing to the IHSA State Tournament which begins Friday at Peoria Civic Center.
Looking to become the first repeat Class 4A state champion since Chicago Simeon won four straight from 2009 to 2012, the Maroons will take on a Bolingbrook team which relies heavily on its speed and quickness.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Getting five 3-point field goals from senior and Drake University recruit Joseph Yesufu, the Raiders held off Oswego East 66-64 in the title game of the Aurora West Sectional on Friday.
While Bolingbrook was not ranked in the final Associated Press state poll, West coach Joe Muniz knows the Maroons will face another major and different challenge. West needed 25 points from EJ Liddell and 23 from Lawrence Brazil III, to hold off Danville 94-83 in title game of the East Moline Sectional.
“Bolingbrook is going to pose us some big challenges. Our ability to make them play against our half court defense is going to be pivotal to winning the game Tuesday night,’’ Muniz said. “They may be one of the best teams I have seen all season that transition from the defensive end to the offensive end as fast as they do.
“It will be important that we do not allow them easy layups in transition and we do not turn the ball over and allow them to run floor. Their guard play is very good and will pose a problem for us, but we have seen this type of team before and I think our kids will adjust.”
The winner will take on either Simeon or Chicago Curie in the second of two Class 4A State Tournament semifinals at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Peoria Civic Center. Simeon and Curie are playing in the Evanston Super-Sectional.
Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional
East St. Louis is going for its first trip to the state finals since 1999-2000 when it battles Springfield Southeast.
The 1999-2000 Flyers team, led by former NBA player Darius Miles and current Madison athletic director Phillip Gilbert, placed third in the Class AA state finals.
In his first full season as the Flyers head coach, Mark Chambers has the Flyers playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. Led by all-state senior and St. Louis University recruit Terrence Hargrove and a 24-point effort from senior Richard Robinson, the Flyers earned their elite 8 bid with a 77-60 win over Mascocutah at the Mascoutah Sectional on Friday.
The Flyers will also have their hands full with Springfield Southeast (30-2) which will have a large hometown crowd backing it on Tuesday. The Spartans placed second in the Class 3A State Tournament a year ago and rely heavily on pressure defense.
Southeast was tough on Southwestern Conference teams during the regular season. The Spartans defeated Collinsville 65-62 in the title game of the Collinsville Holiday Tournament, then knocked off Alton at the O’Fallon Shootout. Southeast challenged Belleville West in late Jaunuary, but ulitimately fell 74-73.
East St. Louis split a pair of decisions with the Maroons and Kahoks.
The winner will play the winner of the Glenbard South-Peoria Manual game in a Class 3A state tournament semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday at Peoria Civic Center. Glenbard South and Manual are playing at the Dekalb Super-Sectional on Tuesday.