East St. Louis coach Shardae Butler is always preaching to her team about the importance of a quick start. On Monday in the first round of the Class 4A Belleville West Girls Basketball Regional, the Flyerettes listened.
Senior JaNesha Munson scored five of her 20 points and six players in all broke into the scoring column in the first quarter as East St. Louis took a 17-3 lead and coasted to a 55-39 win over Collinsville.
With the ability to play anywhere on the court, the 5-11 Munson wasted little time in making her presence felt. The athletic senior scored on an offensive rebound, then added a 15-foot jumper as the ninth-seeded Flyerettes were off and running. Sophomore Kaysie Newson and freshman Ljamiyiah Kidd added 3-point baskets for East St. Louis which led 12-1 after only five minutes had been played.
Eighth-seeded Collinsville (11-16), which split a pair of regular-season games against the Flyerettes, would get no closer the rest of the night.
“I thought we came out at the start and played very well,” Butler said. “We talk all the time about wanting to get out quick and we did that tonight. We were able to get out on the break and get some points that way. When we get the speed of the game a little faster, that’s when we play our best.”
“We did that tonight.”
East St. Louis (14-12) would lead 24-3 before Collinsville’s first basket of the game came on a short jumper by Kassidy Smith with 5 minutes 5 seconds left in the first half to cut the Flyerettes lead to 24-5. Collinsville would rally to cut its deficit to 10 points twice in the third quarter. But Munson and sophomore Rokelle Stanley hit key baskets to keep the lead safe.
The win moves East St. Louis into the regional semifinals on Tuesday against top-seed Edwardsville at 6 p.m.
Collinsville meanwhile has the next nine months to figure out what happened to its 3-point shooting touch. One od the top 3-point shooting teams in the metro-east, the Kahoks managed just two on Monday.
“It’s never easy to see a season end. The kids came out each night and gave us a tremendous effort. That’s all we can ask,” Collinsville coach Lori Billy said. “They (East St. Louis) got out on top early and we didn’t shoot the ball well. Some nights they just don’t fall. We had some good looks that wouldn’t drop.”
While Collinsville missed its first 18 shots from the floor, the Flyerettes were flying. Munson scored five points while senior D’Onnaca Wilson and Shawnta Johnson both scored. and when Newson and Kidd added 3-points field goals, the Flyers had a big lead early.
Stanley added the first two of her 14 points to give the Flyerettes a 17-3 lead.
Collinsville, which missed its first seven 3-point attempts, managed only two free throws by Danielle Knutson and a free throw by Kaitlyn Fischer
“We knew coming in tonight what a great 3-point shooting team Collinsville was. We were able to extend out and not give them as many open looks,’’ Butler said. “We contested most, if not all of their shots from the perimeter.’’
Fischer, who led Collinsville with 13 points, scored twice on short range jumpers and a 3-point shot while Kassidy Smith scored inside as Collinsville closed to within 10 points twice in the third period. But a strong move to the lane and a basket by Stanley and a conventional 3-point play by Munson extended the Flyerettes lead again.
Munson, winding down a solid four-year career was the best player and maybe the best athlete on the floor on Monday.
“JaNesha has really matured and become a very good basketball player who can play all five positions on the floor,” Butler said. “Sometimes she thinks she’s a point guard a little too much of the time.”