O’Fallon’s defensive approach Friday night was to smother the Edwardsville Tigers at the 3-point line.
The strategy worked as the Tigers were just 4-for-20 (20 percent) from beyond the arc and O’Fallon senior Donovan Franklin erupted for 26 points in the Panthers’ 58-40 victory in a Southwestern Conference game.
It snapped O’Fallon’s seven-game losing streak against Edwardsville.
“We haven’t won up here in a little while,” said Panthers coach Rick Gibson, whose team improved to 10-5 overall and 5-1 in the SWC. “We played a complete game. It takes a complete game to play them, and I thought we played a real complete game today.”
The tone was set early when Edwardsville (8-6, 4-2) went 1-for-9 from the 3-point line in the first quarter and fell behind 12-10. The Panthers led 25-19 at halftime and 38-30 after three before going 8-for-9 from the field in the fourth quarter to run away.
Gibson credited his players’ defensive execution.
“That’s their thing: They try to get back-doors and they try to get 3-pointers, and I thought we did a real good job of taking away back-doors. I don’t think they got anything off back-doors,” Gibson said of the Tigers. “We did a good job of guarding them and making them have to put the ball on the floor and not just be able to shoot wide-open 3s.”
With 6-foot-9 senior Nathan Cokenour battling foul trouble throughout the game, senior Parker Roustio came off the bench and scored 13 points for the Panthers, while junior Chance Armstrong chipped in with 11. Only one other player scored for O’Fallon; senior Darien McClain had eight points.
O’Fallon was 23-for-42 from the field (55 percent) and had just nine turnovers.
Sophomore A.J. Epenesa led the Tigers with 16 points. Sophomore Mark Smith had 12. Edwardsville was 12-for-37 from the floor (32 percent) and had 15 turnovers.
The 6-5 Franklin’s athletic ability and mid-range game was too much for Edwardsville to contain. He scored 18 points in the second half on 6-for-7 shooting from the field and 6-for-6 marksmanship from the free-throw line.
“We just started being aggressive,” Franklin said. “Coach told us to start going to the basket more and try to draw some fouls and get to the free-throw line. I think that’s what we did. The refs were letting us play a little bit, so I had to be a little crafty around the rim. It worked for us tonight.”
And for the first time in Franklin’s career against Edwardsville
“It feels good to get one,” Franklin said. “It’s a big win. Our team tried to stop all their shooters and I think we did a good job. We’re starting to come together, and this is the time we want to come together – for the second part of the year.”
O’Fallon seized control with an 8-0 uprising that gave it a 20-10 lead in the second quarter. Smith’s 3-pointer at the buzzer drew the Tigers within 25-19 at the break, but the Panthers regained control with a 10-2 run in the third quarter that made it 36-22.
The lead ballooned to 52-36 on Roustio’s basket with 1:15 to play in the game, and Franklin’s three-point play gave the Panthers an 18-point bulge (56-38) in the waning seconds.
“I thought O’Fallon played awfully well,” said Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo, whose club has dropped four in a row. “I thought they did a lot of things well at both ends of the floor. They played excellent. Making 3s is important to us. I’ll have to see the film and see how open we were, but we had trouble scoring from the perimeter. They were able to defend the post and guard the perimeter pretty well.”
Waldo said Franklin was too much.
“He’s good,” he said. “He’s big and he can play close to the basket and play away from the basket, and they throw the ball to him. He’s hard to stop. It helps to be big and long, junp well and have skill. He’s got all those things.”
Gibson enjoyed the show.
“He’s tough to guard,” he said. “He scores in the paint, he can hit the 3, he has a mid-range game. He’s tough, and he had a good game tonight. He’s been a leader all year for us, and he did a great job defensively. The kid he was guarding hardly got a shot.”
Franklin held sophomore Stephen Oliver to three points on 1-for-4 shooting. Oliver entered the game as the Tigers’ top 3-point shooter with 34.