GODFREY — Edwardsville junior Kortney Dunbar has reached rock star status in her home town.
The 6-foot-1-inch forward possesses a large fan base, led by a group of relatives, who on Thursday night brought a giant cutout picture of her face to the championship game of the Class 4A Alton Regional at Alton High School.
The huge head, exactly like the ones seen on a regular basis at college games around the country, must have done the trick.
Dunbar pumped in a career-high 28 points to propel the top-seeded Tigers to a 72-30 win over Springfield. The triumph continues a decade of dominance for Edwardsville, which claimed its 10th straight regional championship.
The Tigers (29-0) advance to face Belleville West (22-8) in the Normal West Sectional on Tuesday back at Alton High. They beat West by 33 and 27 points in their two regular-season meetings.
Senior Emmonnie Henderson added 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks for Edwardsville, which is the state's top-ranked Class 4A team. Junior Aaliyah Covington chipped in with 14 points.
The Tigers have won 28 of their games by 14 points or more. They are ranked 19th nationally by The USA Today.
Dunbar picked a perfect time for an eye-popping performance. She hit on 10-of-15 shots from the field and grabbed four rebounds.
A potential NCAA Division I prospect, Dunbar posed for pictures after the game holding her giant head. She stayed on the court for 20 minutes greeting friends and relatives.
"My cousin made this so I had to come out and have a big game," said Dunbar, whose previous career scoring high had been 26 points against O'Fallon earlier this season. "I just felt good and the shots were falling."
Dunbar helped lead the Tigers to one of their best efforts of the season. They used a 17-2 run to take control early and stayed focused until the final whistle.
The performance even brought a smile to the face of their hard-to-please veteran coach Lori Blade.
"Everything clicked tonight and it was good to see," she said. "Our kids did what we asked them to. I don't even know what to say. The kids did a great job all the way around."
Both Dunbar and Henderson were happy with the results.
"We came out with our 'A,'" game," said the 6-2 Henderson, who is headed to the University of Louisville.
The Tigers' early run helped them take control 21-6 midway through the second quarter. Henderson started the roll with a short jump shot. Dunbar followed with back-to-back 3-pointers in a 21-second span to push the lead to 12-4.
Kierra Weir countered for Springfield (26-4) before the Tigers reeled off the next nine points.
Dunbar connected from close range and Henderson followed with successive baskets. Senior Sydney Bloch chipped in with a 3 to push the lead to 15 points.
Edwardsville scored the first six points of the second half. Henderson, Dunbar and senior Lauren White all tallied to push the lead to 37-15.
Anika Webster led Springfield with seven points. The Senators' leading scorer, Ashton Williams, managed just one point on a free throw with 3:01 left in the game. She came into the contest averaging 16 points per game.
Springfield came into the contest ranked fourth in Class 4A.
Edwardsville, off to its best start in school history, hit 29 of 50 shots from the field. It entered the game with a victory margin of 42.9 points per game.
"When we play as a whole, we're unstoppable," Dunbar said. "We played a good first half then we came out in the second half and stepped it up (even) more."
The Tigers, who finished second in the state last season, appear to be peaking at the right time. They certainly impressed Springfield coach Brad Scheffler.
"They're undefeated for a reason," he said. "I'd be surprised if anybody beats them for the 4A title."