QUINCY — For a half Friday night, Edwardsville's Armon Fletcher was bottled up.
With Edwardsville trying to win a Class 4A regional title in enemy territory, Fletcher scored just two points in the first half and the Tigers led host Quincy by only six points at the half. When he got his first touch in the third quarter on Edwardsville's first possession, Fletcher thought his eyes may have deceived him.
"I was a little hesitant when I first caught it," the 6-foot-5 senior center said. "I turned around and there wasn't anybody there. I was kind of shocked a little bit."
He calmly sank a 12-foot jump shot to kickstart a game-changing rally. Edwardsville scored 15 of the first 17 points in the third quarter to take control in a 65-49 victory at Blue Devil Gym. The seventh-ranked Tigers (27-2) will face Belleville East at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a sectional game at SIU-Edwardsville's Vadalabene Center.
After watching classmate Shawn Roundtree put on a show in the first half to help stake Edwardsville to a 32-26 halftime cushion, Fletcher took over in the second half. He had a hand in every one of the Tigers' points during the clinching run. He assisted Darius Crochrell on a bucket before taking a lob pass from Trevor Clay and throwing down one of his six dunks on the night.
A bucket by Quincy's Connor Mellon momentarily stopped the run. But Fletcher answered with a a driving layup on Edwardsville's next possession. He canned another 15-foot jumper from near the free-throw line after another empty possession by Quincy (15-12). He assisted on a 3-pointer by reserve Mark Smith and then capped the run with a pair of free throws with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left. By the time he was finished, the Tigers' lead had ballooned to 47-28.
"Our assistant coaches did a real good job of making adjustments and putting him in a different place and he was able to get open more," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "I thought that was a really good move by our assistants to get him there. Of course, we had to get him the ball and he made a lot of good plays once he got it."
Fletcher finished with 20 points and game-highs of eight rebounds and five assists. He said the move that helped spark the team was a simple one.
"They switched me and Darius from the baseline to the high post," Fletcher said. "My teammates just found me in the middle of the zone. My coaches told me to stay aggressive, and if I couldn't get to the basket to kick it out to open shooters."
The run took the wind out of the sails of a hot Quincy crowd.
In the first half, Roundtree sparked the Tigers, showing off an array of moves in scoring 17 points of his game-high 23 points in the half.
"We don't expect nothing less of ourselves and of each other," Roundtree said. "We know in big games like this that we have to set the tone and come out aggressive from the jump. That's what we did."
Roundtree drilled three first-half 3-pointers as the Tigers went 6 of 10 from behind the stripe in the half. Quincy coach Sean Taylor said that sharp shooting is what did his team in.
"Offensively, we played well, but we couldn't get them to miss shots," Taylor said. "We told our guys that if you're going to beat Edwardsville that you have to play with the lead. We don't have the quickness to match them. If they go 3 for 10 in the first half instead of 6 for 10, then we're playing with the lead."
Trevor Clay added 12 points for the Tigers, who won their seventh straight game.
Alec Shoot had 12 points to lead Quincy, which lost a postseason game at home for the first time since 1977.
Edwardsville now faces a Belleville East team that it beat twice during the regular season.
"Everybody knows that in the postseason that everybody has a new record," Fletcher said. "Everybody is going to come out here and it's win or go home. You have to play hard and play smart every game."