EDWARDSVILLE — Playing an athletic and familiar foe, Edwardsville coach Lori Blade was concerned as the Tigers prepared to take on East St. Louis on Monday in the semifinals of the Class 4A Edwardsville Sectional.
A little over a minute and three Flyerettes layups into the game, Blade was even more concerned.
But the Tigers responded.
Seniors Kortney Dunbar and Aaliyah Covington combined for 35 points as Edwardsville rolled to a 65-32 win in a battle of Southwestern Conference powers.
Coming off a upset win over Belleville West in the title game of the Belleville East Regional, East St. Louis (15-10) jumped out to a quick 6-5 lead on three layups by Janelle Randle.
But with Covington and Dunbar combining for 17 of the Tigers 19 first-quarter points, the Flyers lead was short-lived.
"That concerned me when they came out and hit the three layups right off the bat. Its a case of not being in the correct defense and not helping out,'' Blade said. "I knew playing East St. Louis was not going to be easy because coach (Shardae) Butler has done a great job of getting her kids to play hard; they do a great job of rebounding.
"But I thought our kids responded well. We battled on the boards and we knocked down the shots. We could have done a better job of handling the basketball, but we did what we needed too. It was a good effort.
The win lifts Edwardsville (27-1) into the sectional final on Thursday at 7 p.m. where will play Bradley-Bourbonnais.
Bourbonnais defeated Moline 46-42 in the other semifinal which was played at Normal West High School on Monday.
Headed to St. Louis University, the 5-10 Covington scored on a 3-point shot and conventional three-point play to put Edwardsville up 11-8 and when Dunbar hit scored the final seven points of the first quarter, Edwardsville led 19-10.
The Flyerettes would get no closer the rest of the night.
The Tigers defense picked up in the second period, allowing East St. Louis just three free throws as their lead grew to 31-13.
"We struggled all night out front tonight,'' Butler said. "The strength of our team has always been up front and out guards didn't do a good job of getting them the basketball. There wasn't any penetration and we couldn't score from the perimeter."
Still, the Flyerettes refused to quit.
Getting a couple of baskets from senior Brelennair Cox, the Flyerettes cut their deficit to 12 points.
"They're so athletic and quick that you can be up 20 points and it still only feels like you're up 5-10," Blade said. "We called timeout and I thought Leeah (Jason) did a good job of settling us down."
Leading 35-23, Edwardsville put the game away with a 14-0 run as Dunbar hit a pair of 3-point jumpers.
Dunbar led Edwardsville with 21 points and Covington added 14. Cox had 13 for East St. Louis.