Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Boys Basketball: Belleville West Muscles Past Larkin to Reach First State Championship Game

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Boys Basketball: Belleville West Muscles Past Larkin to Reach First State Championship Game

Article excerpt

PEORIA, ILL. * Belleville West basketball coach Joe Muniz remembers the November car ride vividly.

He distinctly recalls driving away from a hotel on the outskirts of Peoria with his starting five during an early-season tournament in nearby Washington.

"I said, 'Boys, on the last week of the IHSA season, let's make sure we're back in Peoria and playing that final game,'" Muniz said.

Message heard.

Mission accomplished.

On Friday evening, Belleville West advanced to the Class 4A state championship game with a 64-53 victory over Elgin-Larkin in a Class 4A semifinal at Carver Arena in Peoria.

"That's what everyone dreams about, playing in that last game," Muniz said. "They've had that dream since the start of June. They've worked hard all season long and I couldn't be more proud of them."

Belleville West (31-2) will play either Whitney Young (28-7) at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday in the title contest.

The Maroons have won 14 successive games their last loss came to Chaminade 81-77 on Jan. 20 at Belleville East. The Red Devils will be playing for the Missouri Class 5 championship against Webster Groves (21-9) on Saturday.

Belleville West is searching for its first state championship. Its best previous finish was a third-place effort in 1966 under coach Jerry Turner.

The Maroons carried an average postseason margin of victory of 26 points heading to Peoria. They made a habit of taking control early over the past few weeks.

But after Belleville West got up by 18 points with 2 minutes, 42 seconds left in the third quarter, Larkin didn't fold.

"Give Larkin credit, we got up on them and lately teams have been folding, but they found a way to get back to seven," Muniz said.

But the Maroons held off the hard-charging Royals just long enough to notch the victory.

"We've used the analogy of a boxer a lot all year and I told the guys in the locker room that we didn't get knocked out, we lost in 12 rounds," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "That says a lot about our team. …

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