EDWARDSVILLE — Faced with its first major test of the season, the Edwardsville Tigers were good enough on Tuesday in their much anticipated showdown with the St. Joseph's (Mo.) Academy Angels.
Senior Lauren White and junior Aaliyah Covington combined for three 3-pointers and 11 points -- in the first three minutes -- and the undefeated Tigers never trailed as they went on for a 61-52 win before an estimated crowd of 850 at Edwardsville High School.
Ranked second in the Class 4A state poll, Edwardsville came out blazing against an Angels team that entered play 10-2 and ranked second among large school teams in the St. Louis area.
White nailed a 3-point shot to start the game and after Covington hit a 15-foot jumper, White nailed a second 3-point shot, banking the ball in from the baseline as Edwardsville took an 8-0 lead just 1 minute 40 seconds into the game.
After St. Joseph senior Erin Nelson scored to cut the lead to 8-2, Covington nailed a 3-point basket as the large partisan Tigers crowd exploded.
"Running up the court, we were laughing about the 3-point bank shot that Lauren hit,'' Covington said. "It had been a while since we had played in front of such a large crowd and we were excited about it. We wanted to come out and play as a team and we did that.''
St. Joseph's Academy, a perennial Missouri state title contender, never went away against the Tigers on this night.
Getting 25 points from 6-3 all-stater Sydney Stipanovich, the Angels cut the Tigers lead to one after one quarter and trailed just 29-23 at halftime.
But in the end the balance of the Tigers balance proved to be too much to overcome.
Junior guard Kortney Dunbar paced the Edwardsville attack with 17 points while Covington and All-American senior Emmonnie Henderson added 13 each.
White, who along with the 6-1 Dunbar, each had three 3-point field goals, added 12 points.
Following the win, Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said she was pleased with how her team had played.
"It's a win and we're happy to beat a very good team in St. Joe's,'' Blade said. "I thought getting out and playing well early was important and I was pleased with our effort.
"But playing a team like this shows us some things that we still need to work on. We had several players step up tonight, but we've got to improve on things like time management late in the game.''
Stipanovich, the niece of former Missouri star Steve Stipanovich, proved to be tough to guard for the Tigers to top all night.
With Henderson picking up two first-half fouls, the 6-foot-3 Stipanovich, scored 14 of her 25 points and almost single-handedly kept her team in the game in the first half.
Edwardsville led just 39-35 midway in the third quarter before opening their advantage to double figures.
Reserve guard Sydney Bloch nailed a short jumper, followed b a 3-pointer by Covington. The 5-11 Covington then made two free throws and White added her final 3-point basket of the night as Edwardsville's lead grew to 44-33 after three quarters.
Dunbar scored eight of her 17 points in the final quarter as the Angels got no closer than six points the rest of the night.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org