The Belleville West Maroons continue to peak at the right time. Now they have just one more step to reach the summit.
Senior Keith Randolph scored a game-high 22 points while EJ Liddell and Jaylin Mosby added 14 points apiece as the Maroons earned a chance to defend their Class 4A state crown with a 70-48 semi-final win over Chicago Curie Friday at Peoria Civic Center.
Deadlocked at 12 midway through the second quarter against the Chicago Public League power Condors, West (33-4) closed out the first half on a 13-2 run and led 25-14.
Curie (34-2), ranked first in the final Class 4A state poll, would get no closer than eight points in the final two quarters as West, shooting nearly 58 percent from the field (26-of-45) continued to execute to near perfection as it moved into the title game against the Evanston Wildkits at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
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Evanston, which placed third in the Class 4A state tournament a year ago, moved on with a 94-82 win over Rockford East in the first Class 4A semifinal on Friday.
But at least for an hour, West coach Joe Muniz and his team were going to enjoy another outstanding effort at the state finals.
“I thought it was a great team effort by our guys,’’ Muniz said. “I thought we shared the basketball well and I thought we guarded them exceptionally well. I had watched them on film and I knew that they played five guards and that they were exceptionally quick. But if we could stay in front of them we would be alright.
“Their pressure was good and we had prepared for it. It was good up top but we knew that if we just kept looking at the basket, that the closer got to it, the easier it was to score. We passed the ball great tonight. We moved it very well .... unselfish.”
Bidding to become the first repeat Class 4A state champion since Chicago Simeon won four straight from 2009-12, the Maroons will be honored on Sunday with a welcome home parade and reception. The parade will begin at 2:25 p.m. at Signal Hill and travel to Belleville West High School. A reception will follow at 3 p.m. at West.
The 6-5 Randolph connected on 8 of 12 shots and finished with 22 points, while Mosby and Liddell combined to make 11 of 18 shots from the floor and score 28 points total. Liddell also added 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. But the Maroons all-stater changed several other shots as the Condors, attempting to take the ball inside, could never get their high-powered offense on track.
“Let’s face it guys, unless you play against this guy (Liddell) every night in practice, trying to take the ball inside against him can be an eye-opening experience,’’ Muniz said. “I thought he changed a lot of shots against Curie. They really didn’t know what to do.’’
Lawrence Brazil highlighted the Maroons’ scoring run to end the first half with four points. But in all, five different Maroons players scored during the spurt.
“That’s when we’re at our best — when we share the basketball,’’ Randolph said. “Hey, these are my last two basketball games. I want to make sure we make them count. We have one more to get.’’
DaJuan Gordon and Ramean Hinton led Curie with 10 points each. But coach Michael Oliver’s team couldn’t cope with a cold shooting night (18 of 65) or Liddell and the rest of the Maroons defense.
“They are big and long and physical inside. Liddell and Randolph are men inside. We just didn’t react well,’’ Oliver said. “We had good looks at the basket and we didn’t make shots and we didn’t rebound well either.’’
Coach: Mike Ellis (16 years, 355-154)
Classification Enrollment: 3459
Conference: Central Suburban League
Last Season’s Advancement: The Wildkits defeated Elgin (Larkin), 61-49, in Third Place Game
State Tournament History: This is the Wildkits 15th trip to the state tournament
Starting 5: F: Jaylin Gibson (6-3, soph. 8 points, 232 rebounds, 78 assists); G: Jaheim Holden (6-0, sr. 11..0 points, 113 rebounds, 109 assists); G: Lance Jones (6-2, sr. 15.8 points, 120 rebounds, 106 assists); G: Blake Peters (6-1, soph. 12.7, points, 123 rebounds, 33 assists); G: Ryan Bost (5-11, sr. 9.9 points, 90 rebounds, 51 assists)
Belleville West (32-4)
Coach Joe Muniz, (15 years, 242-177)
Classification Enrollment: 2066
Last Season’s Advancement: The Maroons defeated Whitney Young 60-56 in state title game
State Tournament History: This is the Maroons ninth trip to the state tournament
Starting 5: G: Lawrence Brazil III (5-11, sr. 13 points, 86 rebounds, 149 assists); G: Jaylin Mosby (6-3, sr. 8.9 points, 109 rebounds, 48 assists); F: Keith Randolph (6-5,sr. 9.1 points, 219 rebound, 34 assist); F: Will Shumpert ( 6-6 sr 9.1 points, 159 reboubnds, 41 assists); FEJ Liddell (6-7, sr. 20.4 points, 324 rebounds, 110 assists)