BELLEVILLE — In the mind of Belleville West girls basketball coach Clayton Fisher there is no longer any doubt.
Especially after a 59-26 trouncing at the hands of nationally ranked Edwardsville on Thursday in a Southwestern Conference game.
"Edwardsville is the best girls basketball team I've coached against,'' Fisher said. "They have it all. They are big, athletic, quick and they are so well coached.''
Playing on the same court where they suffered their last Southwestern Conference loss -- three years and 359 days ago -- the Tigers put on a clinic as they broke open a close game with a 15-0 scoring run during the second and third quarters and breezed to their 57th straight SWC win with the 33-point victory over the Maroons.
All-state senior Emmonnie Henderson scored 27 points, while junior Kortney Dunbar added 16 for Edwardsville (23-0), which moved a step closer to a fourth straight undefeated conference season with the lopsided win over the second-place Maroons.
Now 10-0 in the SWC, Edwardsville has regular-season games remaining with Granite City, East St. Louis, O'Fallon and Alton in the next two weeks.
Ranked second in the Class 4A state poll and 23rd nationally by USA Today, Edwardsville's last SWC loss was a 50-37 decision at West on Jan. 29, 2009.
"It really is a remarkable streak,'' Tigers coach Lori Blade said. "We've been very fortunate to have not only great players, but great kids who have the support from their parents and families.''
West (16-7, 7-2), getting 10 points from 6-foot-5 junior Jesheon Cooper, overcame a nervous start and trailed just 19-13 midway through the second quarter.
But the 6-2 Dunbar nailed a 3-pointer and senior guard Lauren White sank a layup and the Tigers went into the break leading 24-13.
Edwardsville then put the game away with a 10-0 run to start the third quarter. Aaliyah Covington and Henderson both scored inside and Dunbar converted a conventional three-point play.
When Henderson followed with a 3, Edwardsville led 34-13 with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
It wasn't until sophomore guard Shay Fluker drilled a 3 with 4:45 left in the third period that West had its first points of the second half.
"Our shot selection leaves a little bit to be desired at times. We came out at the start of the game wanting to take at least a minute off (the clock) on our first possession. I think we had the ball for about 25 seconds before we got one up,'' Fisher said. "I'm not disappointed with the girls or where we are.
"If somebody would have told me that we'd have a two- or three-game lead for second place in the SWC when the season started, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. We'd love another shot at Edwardsville, because if we get one it means we would have won a regional.''
Henderson then put the finishing touch to her night when she scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
"Emmonnie had a good night. She was looking to score and be aggressive,'' Blade said. "Defensively, we did a good job after we made some adjustments. Belleville West has the big kid (Cooper) and they are just so athletic.
"We're in a good spot. But we've still got to get better.''