The Belleville West Maroons’ magical season concluded with a steal and layup by former CBC guard Lawrence Brazille III, in overtime to seal a 60-56 victory over Chicago Whitney Young for the IHSA Class 4A state championship.
Not since the great Bennie "Boss" Lewis’ three-peat performances at East St. Louis Lincoln in 1987, 88 and 89 has a school from the “618” area code had such a dominating year.
The Maroons finished 32-2 and winners of 15 in a row, with the last loss coming on January 20 against Missouri 2018 runner-up Chaminade in the championship game of the Belleville East Tournament.
It was the first state championship in the history of the Belleville West basketball program and first for the powerful Southwestern Conference since 1965 when the Collinsville Kahoks won the state title.
In addition, it showed upstate and the Chicagoland area that we play hoops downstate as well. Believe it or not, downstate teams south of Springfield don't get any credit for playing football or basketball until Bob Shannon started kicking the rear of Chicago area teams back in the late 70's until his retirement in the 90's with his great East St. Louis teams. And now, Darren Sunkett is doing it on the regular at East Side.
Belleville West Maroons star E.J. Liddell guided this team all season as he elevated his game to the point where he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Illinois.
Liddell’s supporting cast included Belleville East transfer and Wright State recruit senior Malachi Smith, senior Curtis Williams, and a strong nucleus of underclassmen in former CBC Cadets Keith Randolph Jr. and Lawrence Brazille III.
All of them played major roles night in, night out for the state champions. On championship night last Saturday, Liddell, who plays AAU basketball for Bradley Beale Elite, had a impressive double-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. It was nothing short of another spectacular night for one of the top 50 underclassmen in the country.
However, on this night, it was the play of big strong two sport star (football) Keith Randolph Jr. and the sleek, crafty Lawrence Brazille III that made the difference in the Maroons victory over Whitney Young.
Whitney Young was led by one of the best players in the State in guard Javon Freeman. He is the nephew of former Illinois great Marcus Liberty.
Hats off to Southwestern Conference rival Belleville West.
It truly was a magical year for the Belleville West Maroons.
*Let's be clear about something.
Some people on the "other side"of the tracks" Cahokia High School to be clear, has been doing a lot of talking lately about student athletes wanting to play football at East Side. If you look at the programs, do you blame them???
Make sure before you go doing a bunch of "talking" to check your own baggage at the door......
By the way. Anyone heard from former Director of Athletics Earl McDowell Jr. lately?
*Hats off to former longtime Cahokia assistant and current Flyers’ head basketball Coach Mark Chambers and his staff on the school’s first Regional championship in 5-years and a Sectional finals appearance.
*Congrats to the Flyers girls basketball team and their Regional championship along with their Sectional finals appearance as well. Congrats to Antonio Mattox and his staff!
*Flyers senior to be Terrence Hargrove Jr. will team up with E.J. Liddell and Vashon phenom Mario McKinney this summer for the prestigious EYBL Bradley Beal Elite team.