EAST ST. LOUIS — Edwardsville senior Garret Covington admitted he was looking forward to the Tigers much-anticipated showdown with East St. Louis and the Flyers' red-hot duo of DeShawn Munson and Johnny McCray.
But with McCray and Munson on the Flyers bench in street clothes Friday, Covington stole the show.
Covington connected on his first nine shots -- six from beyond the 3-point line -- and finished with 27 points as Edwardsville defeated the short-handed Flyers 71-60 in a battle of state-ranked Southwestern Conference teams.
The leaders of an East St. Louis team riding a 12-game-winning streak, McCray and Munson were benched for what coach Tony Young called "messing up in class."
As a result, their absence all but messed up the Flyers' chances, as the Tigers (22-2, 10-2) more than doubled their seven-point halftime advantage by outscoring East St. Louis 25-16 in the third quarter to take a 59-43 lead.
Ranked fourth in the Class 3A state poll, East St. Louis (16-7, 7-4) would get no closer than 10 the rest of the game.
Covington, who scored 15 of his points in the first half, also keyed the Tigers' third-quarter spree.
The senior forward opened the period with two 3-pointers in the first 40 seconds, then nailed his fifth straight from beyond the arc two minutes later, as Edwardsville cemented its command of the game.
"I really wish they (Munson and McCray) would have played. It's getting near the end of the regular season and it's good to play against good players,'' Covington said. "But don't get me wrong. A win is a win and we'll take it.''
Even without McCray and Munson, the Flyers fought hard.
Getting seven points from Darrion Beane, East St. Louis led early and trailed just 18-16 after one period.
Edwardsville, ranked fifth in the Class 4A poll, extended its lead up in the second quarter, as Covington continued to shine and got help from Tre' Harris, Armon Fletcher and Shawn Roundtree to lead 34-27 at the break.
Harris would finish with 15 points, while Fletcher chipped in 13.
Tigers coach Mike Waldo said his team adjusted well.
"We had prepared for East St. Louis with the idea that they (Munson and McCray) would play, so when they didn't our guys had to adjust,'' Waldo said. "Our guys are smart players though. They made the adjustments well.
"But I thought our guys did a good job. East St. Louis has other good players besides Munson and McCray and we made plays when we needed them.''
Daniel Williams led East St. Louis with 19 points, while Travon McCray and Darrion Beane added 17 apiece.
East St. Louis coach Tony Young said he was pleased with the effort.
"DeShawn and Johnny (McCray) messed up in class, they'll be back,'' Young said. "But I was pleased that we had kids like Darrion Beane, Travon (McCray) and Daniel Williams. They played hard and what I asked them to do was play hard.
"We had some breakdowns and defense which cost us and Garret (Covington) is just a great player. The first time we did a good job of containing him. But tonight he was something.''