O'FALLON — The most familiar sight in the fourth quarter Tuesday at the Panther Dome was Edwardsville High senior guard Shawn Roundtree preparing to shoot more free throws.
Roundtree hit eight straight down the stretch and finished with a game-high 22 points as the unbeaten Tigers held off O'Fallon 67-62 in a Southwestern Conference game.
"Roundtree's just so good," O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. "He's a leader, he's a strong kid and he wants the ball. You're not going to get it our of his hands and when you foul him, you might as well just put two (points) on the board and not even make him waste his time."
Edwardsville (13-0), ranked seventh in the state in Class 4A and first in the News-Democrat large-school poll, improved to 5-0 in the conference.
Roundtree led a balanced and highly efficient scoring effort that saw the Tigers knock down 23-of-34 shots (68 percent) and sink all 11 free throws in the final quarter.
"I definitely know as a point guard it's my responsibility to go get the ball when the game's on the line," said Roundtree, being recruited by numerous Division I schools. "I just made sure I did that and stayed composed, knocked down the free throws."
Edwardsville got 18 points from senior guard Trevor Clay, 13 from senior Darius Crochrell and 12 (all in the first half) from Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Armon Fletcher.
Sophomore Chance Armstrong led O'Fallon with 15 points while senior Isaiah Armstrong and junior Donovan Franklin had 12 points each. Darien McClain added 11 for the Panthers.
Trailing 38-33 at halftime and 50-47 heading into the fourth quarter, O'Fallon (9-8, 2-3) had a strong rebounding night and made several runs at the Tigers down the stretch.
Down by four with just under a minute left, O'Fallon got a break when Clay missed a dunk. But the Panthers rushed upcourt and quickly turned it over, never getting within striking distance again with Roundtree burning up the nets on foul shots.
"At that point it's a four-point game and we've got numbers, we've got a chance to cut it to one or two and then it's a different game," Gibson said. "Then we throw it right back away after having a chance to get momentum back."
Gibson knows the dangers of playing from behind against Edwardsville, no matter how slim the lead.
"You don't have them where you want them until you can get a lead on them," he said. "As we tried to tell our kids, when you play Edwardsville it's a three-quarter game. The fourth quarter turns into a chase, really."
Especially when the Tigers spread the court and allow Roundtree to work his ball distributing magic.
"He makes good decisions, he's a tough guy," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "He never, ever makes a selfish play. He always makes the right pass and the right play and our guys want Shawn to have the ball."
The Tigers hadn't played since Dec. 28, but seemed unaffected by the long layoff.
"Our guys managed this bad stretch well," Waldo said. "We had a few days we didn't get to practice and then we had a few games we didn't get to play. But when they did get the opportunity to practice, they really worked at it."
A 3-pointer by Franklin seemed to revive O'Fallon after a slow start and the Panthers played much better the rest of the first half.
Fletcher had two acrobatic dunks among his 12 points in the first half, but O'Fallon sophomore Chance Armstrong kept his team close with 11 points early.
The Tigers were anxious to play their first game of 2014.
"It was tough because we were the only team in our conference that didn't get a game within that long span," said Roundtree, a 6-foot guard being recruited by Missouri State, Eastern Illinois, Navy, Indiana State, Furman, Missouri-Kansas City and a few others. "But we didn't want that to be an excuse as to why we came out here and lost. We stayed focused and got a win tonight."
Mater Dei 59, Madison 49
Ben Lampe and Nolan Gerling combined for 31 points as Mater Dei (10-6) stayed hot with a win over the state's third-ranked Class 1A team. Lampe had 17 points and Gerlin added 14 to go along with nine each for Zach Deiters and Brendan Timmermann. Madison (8-3) got 10 points from Terrence Glover and nine each from Devondre Walker and Daymon Warren.