Scouting the Class 4A ISU supersectional: West Aurora vs. Belleville West

Updated 3/12/2018 8:22 PM
  • West Aurora's Traevon Brown takes a jumper against St. Charles earlier this season. The Blackhawks battle Belleville West Tuesday in the Illinois State supersectional at Redbird Arena in Normal.

      West Aurora's Traevon Brown takes a jumper against St. Charles earlier this season. The Blackhawks battle Belleville West Tuesday in the Illinois State supersectional at Redbird Arena in Normal. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Class 4A ISU supersectional

West Aurora (25-4) vs. Belleville West (29-2)

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Redbird Arena

Road to the supersectional: Second-seeded West Aurora beat No. 15 Waubonsie Valley 60-35, No. 7 Andrew 69-54, No. 3 Lincoln-Way East 70-58 and No. 1 Bolingbrook 82-67. Belleville West, top-seeded in a subsectional, beat No. 8 Belleville East 69-52, No. 4 Edwardsville 68-44, No. 2 Quincy 66-33 and No. 4 Moline 67-47.

Playoff history: West Aurora seeks its first state berth since 2006 and 16th overall. The Blackhawks won the 2000 Class AA state title. They finished second in 1928, 1976 and 1997, third in 1949, 1973, 1980, 1984 and 2004 and fourth in 1958. They are 10-6 in supersectional games since 1973. Belleville West's sectional title was the program's eighth overall and first since 2003, when it lost to Evanston in a Class AA quarterfinal. The Maroons seek their second state semifinal appearance. They finished third in 1966.

Probable starters

West Aurora Belleville West

Name Ht. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Yr.

Cameron Donatlan6-10 Sr. G EJ Liddell 6-6 Jr. F

Trae Brown 6-0 Jr. G Curtis Williams 6-0 Sr. G

Damian Virgen 6-0 Sr. G/F Lawrence Brazil III5-11 Jr. G

Ben Young 6-4 Sr. G Malachi Smith 6-3 Sr. G

Jared Crutcher 6-5 Sr. F Keith Randolph 6-5 Jr. F

Outlook: The Blackhawks enter with a 17-game winning streak. They vanquished postseason nemesis Bolingbrook in the Romeoville sectional final. Standing between them and a trip to Peoria? Arguably, the state's top player: EJ Liddell. Named the 2018 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound power forward already has 1,692 career points. He needs 37 more to become his school's all-time leading scorer, according to David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat. The sought-after recruit holds offers from Ohio State, Florida, Kansas State, Iowa State, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Marquette, among others. Liddell averages team highs in scoring (20.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.8), shoots 35.3 percent from 3-point range (24 of 68) and 78 percent from the free-throw line (195 of 250). He is supported by senior guard Malachi Smith, who transferred last summer from Belleville East after two varsity seasons. He averages 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and shoots a team-best 41 percent from 3-point range (34 of 83). Lawrence Brazil (10.5 ppg) has played well in big postseason games. He scored 20 points in the regional championship against Edwardsville and finished with 19 points in a sectional final against Moline. The Maroons have won 12 straight since a Jan. 20 loss to St. Louis-Chaminade (84-74). Their other loss was against Houston (Texas) Math and Science on Nov. 25 (81-77). Belleville West has not lost to a team from Illinois.

West Aurora counters with a balanced starting five led by Upstate Eight Valley co-players of the year Jared Crutcher (13.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Cam Donatlan (19 ppg, 6.4). Everyone in the starting five can score. Senior guard Damian Virgen averages 11.7 points and 2.8 assists, junior point guard Trae Brown contributes 10.5 points and a team-best 4.5 assists and senior 3-point specialist Ben Young entered the postseason shooting a team-best 42 percent from 3-point range (43 of 102). Crutcher scored 28 points on 12-of-14 shooting in the sectional final against Bolingbrook. Driving to the rim won't be easy for either team since each possesses a premier rim defender. Crutcher blocks 3.9 shots per game. Liddell averages 5.9 blocks.

Advancement: The winner advances to Friday's Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena in Peoria to face Tuesday's winner of the Northern Illinois University supersectional between Larkin (23-8) and Benet Academy (27-4).

-- Jerry Fitzpatrick

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