BELLEVILLE — With a 63-game Southwestern Conference winning streak on the line, the Edwardsville Tigers' go-to girl came through Thursday at Belleville West High School.
Senior Kortney Dunbar hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining to give her team the lead for good as undefeated Edwardsville escaped with a 43-41 win.
The last team to beat Edwardsville in a SWC game -- a 50-37 victory on Jan. 29, 2009 -- the Maroon were on the verge of doing it again, when junior Imani Berry hit two free throws with 55 seconds left to put West up 41-39.
But Dunbar, a University of Tennessee recruit, responded.
"Coach (Lori) Blade just said you know how we do our sideline (play), just past the point on the double-screen. I was hoping and praying that it would go in. I had to help my girls out tonight,'' Dunbar said. "The screen made the difference on that play. I never would have gotten that kind of shot without it.''
Following a missed shot by the Maroons, Edwardsville senior Kennedy Martin made one of two free throws to increase the lead to two with 5.6 seconds left.
Two West time-outs later, Maroons junior Shay Fluker's off-balance baseline jumper was off the mark at the buzzer and the Tigers' streak was still alive.
"We grinded it out tonight. That's all I can say. We were a tired basketball team with this being our third game of the week and that concerned me,'' Tigers coach Lori Blade said. "But we found a way to get it done and I'm very proud of our effort.
"The last play was one that we had run in the first half. The kids set good screens and Kortney hit the shot."
West (4-2, 1-1), which got 12 points apiece from Fluker and Berry, started fast and led by as many as eight points in the first quarter.
But when Berry went to the bench with three fouls and 6-foot, 5-inch senior Jesheon Cooper remained ineffective, Edwardsville went on an 18-1 run over the final six minutes of the second quarter and took a 28-19 lead into halftime.
Dunbar, who led all scorers with 22 points, led the surge by scoring 10 points in the period.
"One of the things we didn't want to do was let them get on a run and that's what they did during that five- or six-minute stretch there in the second quarter," Maroons coach Clayton Fisher said. "But you know what? Our kids fought back. Jesheon (Cooper) came alive in the third quarter and hit a few shots. And I thought we did a good job on the defensive end of the court.
"I'm disappointed with the outcome. But I'm pleased with our effort.''
Cooper scored eight of her 11 points the third quarter, as West pulled to within 34-31.
Sophomore guard Ali Hanger then hit a 16-foot jumper to pull West within a point in the opening seconds of the final period. Hanger later would give West a 38-37 lead midway through the fourth quarter when she hit a 3.