EDWARDSVILLE — Playing her final home game, Edwardsville senior Kennedy Martin saved the best for last Thursday in the championship game of the Class 4A Edwardsville Sectional.
Martin scored a game-high 17 points and keyed a late third-quarter surge with three straight layups to help give her team the lead for good as the Tigers rallied for a 49-44 win over Bradley-Bourbonnais before a large crowd at Edwardsville High School.
The Tigers' third offensive option on most nights, the 5-foot, 9-inch Martin picked up where she left off in the first half when she scored on three strong moves to the basket late in the third period.
Her third hoop tied the game at 32. The Boilermakers' Camisha Shavers gave her team back the lead, but baskets by Morgan Sharpe and Aaliyah Covington, followed by two free throws by Leeah Jason gave Edwardsville a 38-34 lead heading into the final quarter.
Edwardsville would not trail again.
Playing in its first sectional final, Bradley-Bourbonnais (27-3) twice cut the lead to two in the final period, but could never draw even again.
The three straight baskets by Martin were a carry over from the first quarter, when she scored eight points to help keep the Tigers in the game.
"Before the game, I really didn't know what to expect. But once we started playing, I thought they (Bradley-Bourbonnais) are big, they're strong and they're really good. I just kept thinking we're not going to lose, not here. Not on our home court,'' Martin said. "I was trying to get everybody fired up and while I know I scored a lot of points tonight, it was a team effort.''
The win moves Edwardsville (28-1) into the Bloomington Super-Sectional on Monday at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.
The Tigers will take on (Chicago Heights) Marian at 7 p.m. Marian defeated Oak Lawn 67-62 in overtime at the Bloom Township Sectional on Thursday.
The Boilers, led by super-quick Martha Burse (15 points, 11 steals) and Emily Poremba (10 points, 14 rebounds) gave the favored Tigers a battle all night.
Utilizing full-court pressure, Bradley-Bourbonnais forced seven Edwardsville turnovers in the first quarter.
It was only the start of a nerve-wracking 32 minutes of basketball for Tigers coach Lori Blade and her team.
"If they wanted to turn this game ugly, they did just that. We woke up in the second half, but even than we weren't ourselves. Give them credit. They play hard, they rebound hard and they gave us a real battle all night'' Blade said. "Kennedy (Martin) kept us in the first quarter and then we were able to play a little bit better down the stretch.
"There are those games in the postseason that you should have lost, but somehow you find a way to win. Maybe that was our game tonight.''
Burse scored nine points in the second quarter and when Chavers hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Boilers led 26-20 and were on the verge of an upset.
"We came out and played a great basketball game against one of the best teams in the state on their home floor and with four minutes left in game we're down by two points,'' Boilers coach Brian Anderson said. "I can't ask anymore of my team than what they gave tonight.
"We had trouble in transition in the second half. We let No. 20 (Martin) get behind us a few times and it hurt us. But I'm so proud of my girls.''