Pushed to the limit in two of their last three postseason games, the Edwardsville Tigers took no chances Monday at the Class 4A Bloomington Super-Sectional.
Senior all-state guard Kate Martin scored 12 of her 23 points in the first quarter as the undefeated Tigers bolted out to 21-3 lead and romped past Chicago Mother McAuley 59-43 at Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.
With Martin connecting on a pair of 3-point shots and seniors Rachel Pranger and Myriah Noodel-Haywood using their strength to dominate against the Mighty Macs, Edwardsville (30-0) took a 14-0 lead in the opening five minutes.
The Mighty Macs (26-8) would get no closer than 12 points the rest of the night.
"One of things I felt we had to do tonight was get out fast because that's what they had been dong in recent games," Tigers coach Lori Blade said. "The last two games they had been up 10 points after one quarter, and we couldn't let that happen tonight. I was concerned about that because there have been games where we've started a little slow.
"We were ready to go tonight.''
The win lifts Edwardsville into the state tournament semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday against Lombard Montini at Redbird Arena in Normal. The trip to the state tournament will be the sixth in school history for Edwardsville, which placed second a year ago.
Montini defeated Bolingbrook 43-35 at the Romeoville Super-Sectional on Monday.
The win extended the careers of Martin, Pranger and Noodel-Haywood for two more games. Teammates since the fourth grade, Pranger and Martin will get another chance to make history this weekend at Redbird Arena.
"It means a lot because we have played together since the fourth grade,'' Martin said during the celebration. "This is what we have wanted to do all season, what we have worked all of this time to do. We were ready to play tonight from the start of the game.''
Pranger added 16 points and Noodel-Haywood chipped in with nine for the Tigers, who shot 61 percent from the floor (22 of 34) and outrebounded the Mighty Macs 32-19.
While Martin had three 3-point field goals, the Tigers did most of their damage inside. With just two-players over 5-foot-10, the Mighty Macs were no match for the Tigers' inside game.
"We had the advantage with our size and we went with that tonight,'' Noodel-Haywood said. "We are going back to state again and this time we're going for the title."
Jenna Badali led Mother McAuley with 18 points. The Mighty Macs closed to within 12 points late in the fourth quarter, but could get no closer.
"I am very proud of this basketball team," Mighty Macs coach Luke Clanton said. "We got off to a rough start and you just can't spot the No. 1 team in the state an 18-point lead and expect to be able to come back. Our girls gave a great effort though.
"We were nervous early, and they really hurt us inside the post. Size-wise, we couldn't match up with them.''