Belleville West junior Tyler Dancy admitted he and the Maroons were feeling the strain of their unrelenting schedule.
But a 55-48 win over Addison Trail in the consolation bracket of the Centralia Holiday Tournament Tuesday could be what changes the course of things for the Maroons, he said.
The victory doesn't just strip away the stress of a seven-game losing steak, it sets West up for some tournament hardware. The Maroons are two wins away from the consolation championship in a strong Centralia field.
"It would be really important — it could change the way our season is going," Dancy said. "It's been a while since we've had a ‘w’ and I think this can really help our morale for the rest of the season."
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
That's not an overstatement, says West coach Joe Muniz.
The Maroons’ schedule through their first eight games was comprised of teams with a combined .745 winning percentage, including four state-ranked teams. Christian County, which dispatched West to Centralia's consolation bracket in the first round Monday, is ranked No. 1 in Kentucky.
It's about time West's young squad tastes some success, Muniz said.
"If you can't win the first one you hope you get to four games and that you can win three of them," said Muniz. "That's a good tournament for us and a good way to start off the second half of the season. This next game is game is important to us."
The Maroons will take on the winner of Tuesday's 9:15 p.m. game between O'Fallon and Chicago Sullivan Wednesday at 10 a.m. With a win, they'll play for the consolation championship at 6 p.m.
The Maroons opened a 29-17 halftime lead then stretched it to 15 points early in the second half.
But Addison Trail turned up the pressure and forced some West turnovers, a problem throughout its losing streak. The Blazers quickly closed the gap and, with an 8-0 run, got with in two points.
"Pressure isn't really what we identify with, but we got a few quick turnovers, changed the pace a little bit and made a run," said Addison Trail coach Brendan Lyons.
Junior guard Jack Lanxon, who has seen limited action due to a back injury he suffered in football season, hit a three-point basket and hit a pair of free throws to put the Maroons back up by seven with 2:29 left.
"Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about how big the shot was at the time. They kicked it out to me and I was just looking for an open shot and trying my best to make it."
West was good on 19 of 24 free throws in the game. Dancy, who scored a game-high 14 points, was 8-of-9 from the line.
Freshman E.J. Liddell scored 12 for West to go with five rebounds.
Zach Novak led Addison Trail with 11 points.