Belleville West wins 4A title, denies Young in overtime

Young's Sangolay Njie defends against Belleville West's EJ Liddell. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.
Young's Sangolay Njie defends against Belleville West's EJ Liddell. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

PEORIA — Young’s senior point guard Xavier Castaneda streaked down the court with visions of a game-winning, state-title winning bucket or assist running through his mind.

But it wasn’t to be. Belleville West guard Lawrence Brazil managed to steal the ball and score to seal the Maroons’ 60-56 win in overtime in the Class 4A state championship game.

“He got a hand on it,” Castaneda said. “I was trying to look at the clock. It’s alright. We made a long run this season, had a lot of ups and downs. I’m happy we came this far.”

Young (28-8), the defending Class 4A champs, never led in the overtime.

It’s the first state title for Belleville West and firmly announces the arrival of junior EJ Liddell as one of the state’s elite players.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever had a team just get better and better,” Belleville West coach Joe Muniz said. “They had this one common goal.”

“We played an outstanding team, an outstanding player,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “We fought tooth and nail, I have no regrets.”

Liddell finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. He was 3-for-8 from the field and 11-for-14 from the free-throw line.

“Young is a great team, we are a great team,” Liddell said. “We just had to keep our composure. It went back and forth. I missed the game-winning shot [in regulation] but that didn’t phase me.”

Brazil scored 18 points for Belleville West (32-2) and post player Keith Randolph Jr. added 13 points and six rebounds.

“Their game plan was to try and stop me and they thought that was going to stop us but we have a really great team,” Liddell said. “It’s not just me. We’ve been down a lot this season, we just had to keep playing together.”

Javon Freeman led Young with 17 points and Castaneda added 14. Jake Kosakowski, Young’s tallest starter at 6-4 and best shooter, sat most of the second half in foul trouble.

“We kind of ran out of a little steam,” Slaughter said. “David got Goliath today. He got them. These guys battled. I’m proud of each and every one of these guys. The fact that we were in this game this year says an awful lot about us.”

It was a good game, I hope the fans enjoyed it. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We had some plays that didn’t fall, some free throws we didn’t make. What these guys have done over the course of their career, I’m so proud of them.”

In a surprise move, Slaughter played sophomore Sangolay Njie 22 minutes. The 6-4 wing, who had not played in the playoffs at all this season, actually guarded Liddell.

“[Njie] came in and did some really great things,” Slaughter said. “We told him today he might get in there and would probably have to play the best player in the state.”

Young was 21-for-50 from the field. Liddell’s shot blocking was a definite factor. The Dolphins didn’t back down, but they weren’t able to finish as consistently as usual.

“I don’t think it changed their offense, they kept coming in there and I kept blocking shots,” Liddell said.

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8 comments

  • Clyde The Glide

    Belleville West won it but they shot twice as many free throws as WY. BW benefited from a phantom whistle at the end of the 4th, and a traveling in the OT only one person saw. EJ is good, but he needs perimeter skills for the next level. He won’t be a 5 and will not be blocking shots in D-1. He needs to learn to dribble and shoot from 15-30 feet.

    • HONEST FAN

      The “phantom whistle” at the end of the 4th quarter as you called it came due to some idiot fan blowing an air horn from the crowd which is illegal within IHSA rules, and that whistle had NO BEARING whatsoever on the outcome of the game!! Also, that traveling call at the end of OT was clearly a travel. Maybe you need to watch the tape. As they say ALL THE TIME, the tape doesn’t lie!! What about the TWO front end of 1 &1 free throws Whitney Young missed in OT that led up to the game still being close, what about the rebound they made after a missed free throw at the end of OT in which they should’ve called a timeout (They had 2 TO Left), and what about the steal right after that which sealed the win for Belleville? But regardless of ANY OF THAT, it’s always easy to blame the refs!! That’s the coward way out!! The refs worked a hell of a game and you can’t honestly say any different!! You’re just like the typical CPS Bandwagon fan!! WY got beat fair and square!!

    • HONEST FAN

      And as far as the OBVIOUS free throw differential, it came due to WY fouling EJ Liddell on purpose for most of the game to make him “earn” his points at the line!! There could have been PLENTY MORE fouls against Young that were not called. They wrapped, held, pushed EJ on almost EVERY SINGLE PLAY!! That was their game plan and that’s what kept them in the game!! On the other end, EVERYTIME Young drove to the basket, EJ either blocked their shots or altered their shots!! As a result, Young shot mostly jump shots which in turn caused it to be very few fouls against Belleville!! EJ Liddell has great body control and plays defense the correct way for his size and stature. Just look at the tape!!!!! That kid has a chance to be truly special..!!!!!

  • CP3

    Still think Talon Horton Tucker is the best player in the state. EJ Liddell is very good player. Talon did it to teams all across the country. Nationally ranked opponents. I hope U of I gets,Liddell to stsy home, but to anoint him best player in the state is premature.
    THT, can do it all and should be Mr Basketball.

  • TwinCityBen

    Liddell is the best player in the state!

    • Leegs1

      Mikey: you saw both. Your opinion?

      • mikenike

        From last night:

        Michael O’BrienVerified account @michaelsobrien19h19 hours ago

        Liddell has one basket in the second half.

        Sorry everybody, he’s a great player but he isn’t at Talen Horton-Tucker’s level yet. Maybe next year.

        For what little it’s worth, I agree. But if Liddell makes the same kind of improvement Talen did from his jr to sr year, EJ gonna be a monster next spring.

  • mikenike

    Great, immensely entertaining game. Congratulations to both teams, especially Belleville West for pulling it out. I enjoyed watching two excellent teams competing at such an intense level.
    Can’t wait for next season.

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