Belleville West beats Evanston, repeats as Class 4A champs

Belleville West's EJ Liddell (32) cheers after getting a dunk late in the 4th quarter in the 4A state championship at Peoria Civc Center in Peoria IL, Saturday 03-16-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Belleville West's EJ Liddell (32) cheers after getting a dunk late in the 4th quarter in the 4A state championship at Peoria Civc Center in Peoria IL, Saturday 03-16-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

PEORIA—The names are immediately familiar to any basketball fan: Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, Shaun Livingston. It’s time to add EJ Liddell.

Those are the only players to lead their schools to back-to-back big school state titles over the past 20 years.

“I’m really not going to take it in until next week and see how big of a mark we made for the 618 and the city of Belleville two years in a row,” Liddell said. “And how we brought people together not just on the court but off the court. I’m really going to miss playing with these guys. It means a lot. I’m really happy but I’m sad at the same time because it is the last time.”

Liddell scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished off six assists to lead Belleville West to a 71-59 win against Evanston in the Class 4A state title game on Saturday at Carver Arena.

“There is nobody more special than him,” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “I’m just sad it’s my last time coaching him. But now I’ll be his biggest fan.”

Belleville West beat Young in overtime last season. They took control of the game in the fourth quarter against the Wildkits (32-5). The Maroons, an uncommonly strong and bulky team, had a 42-25 rebounding advantage.

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“There were too many second chance points that we gave up,” Evanston coach Mike Ellis said. “That’s a tough team to stop on the first shot let alone the second. They definitely took a toll on us inside.”

Will Shumpert scored 21 for the Maroons and Jaylin Mosby added 15, both converted several dunks in the fourth quarter.

“That’s kind of where I think the lead stretched out,” Ellis said. “We were playing with them for three and a half quarters and we just panicked a little bit. We get to the bucket we have to finish. It’s very simple, almost like a middle school basketball game. One team made their layups and one team missed theirs.”

Senior Jaheim Holden led Evanston with 20 points. Lance Jones added 15 and sophomore Louis Lesmond scored 12.

The Wildkits relied heavily on the three-pointer this season. Belleville West did a good job keeping the ball out of sharpshooter Blake Peters’ hands throughout the game. Evanston shot 4-for-24 from three-point range.

Evanston won the state title in 1968 and finished second in 1984. The Wildkits have been collecting state hardware since Ellis took over. Evanston finished third in 2008 and 2018, fourth in 2003.

“It’s more about Ryan [Bost], Lance and Jaheim than Mike Ellis,” Ellis said. “They are going to graduate probably three of the winningest basketball players ever to go through Evanston. To have those guys be a part of it for the last four years and set the tone, I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Belleville West (34-4) is the first southern school to win back-to-back titles in any class since East St. Louis Lincoln won three consecutive titles in Class AA from 1987 to 1989.

14 comments

  • Stone Cold

    Why isn’t anyone complaining about the 3 transfers starters that Belleville West had this season?

    • M

      Best guess is because they are 300 miles away nobody knows about them and they are not covered is our are as Mike mentioned in the last podcast. It that is the case they are just as bad as CPS. Bogan had a player made eligible the last week of the regular season and played him extensively from that point on. What kind of message does that send to the other players on that team or anyone considering going there and playing for him? There are no more coaches “building programs” any more. It’s simply about recruiting. It’s to the point it’s not even worth watching anymore. That is a way bigger issue for the IHSA than attendance moving forward regardless of where the decide to play the finals.

    • ShawnJ

      Those were Belleville kids that attended a private school in Missouri (CBC) before coming back home to Illinois. Two of those kids transferred a couple of years ago before Belleville West won its first championship. Furthermore, Belleville West has never been a school that attracts transfers for the sole purpose of athletics as it doesn’t exactly have a long tradition of winning championships. There’s really nothing for anyone to complain about.

  • Marc Loving

    O-H-I-O

  • Bones

    Congrats to Belleville West. I knew they were going to be the toughest team for my Raiders. Would have preferred any one of the other 7 Super Sectional teams but it wasn’t meant to be. That EJ is a beast.

    Curie had a great season, but didn’t really play anyone in the state and ended up being slightly overrated as evidenced by getting dominated. Evanston put up a good fight, I commend them.

    • Jazmine Taylor

      I was actually rooting for Bellville but after seeing how the refs officated the game and cheated both Evanston and Curie I don’t think they deserve the win. It was 8 men against 5 on that court.

  • CP3

    Historic season by the ‘ Kits! Led by there trio of winningest players in their history.
    Just needed some size to fight inside which we knew. The 3pt shooting woes were critical. Make 25% more of those attempts and they win.
    Definitely should be #1 in final poll. Nobody should be higher totally agree Norm.

  • Coach Mike

    CPS sand bagging in 1A & 2A. DePaul prep chose to play 3A, despite 2A enrollment. No CPS dominance in large schools, despite open boundary. Long live Peoria Civic Center.

  • Norm

    Congrats to the Wildkits on a great run! They should be number one in the final poll in my humble opinion. They looked clearly superior to Curie all weekend. And as far as Bogan goes second place in 4A is better than second in 3A. They weren’t beating BW either. Thanks Mike for your work and see you next year

    • Steve

      I agree. Evanston looked like a more complete team than curie and had belleville on the ropes. The tide turned a little when bost rolled his ankle and turned some more just before halftime when a big bucket cut evanstons lead to six. Lidell started smiling down 2 mid third quarter and it was evident they were no longer going to be able to hold him in check even a little the rest of the way. Down double digits he demanded the ball and produced time and time again the rest of the game.

      Keeping with the theme of letting the kids play evanston coach did as bogans coach did. Evanston also had five timeouts left deep into the game. For a team that started looked obviously physically tired with around six or seven minutes to go, using a couple of those would have went a long way to helping some of those layups go in.

  • Ron

    Thanks for all your work this season Michael. Those East St. Louis Lincoln teams from the late 80’s were so damn good!!

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