What looked to be a close game between the top two basketball teams in the Southwestern Conference on Friday turned into a rout for the Edwardsville Tigers at Lucco-Jackson Gymnasium.
Edwardsville moved to 7-0 in league play and won its sixth straight game by breaking things wide open with an 11-0 midway through the second half during a 64-47 victory over the Alton Redbirds.
Besides balanced scoring led by 15 points from Oliver Stephen, 14 from A.J. Epenesa, 13 from Chrys Colley and 10 by Mark Smith, the Tigers (13-3 overall, 7-0 in the SWC) also got lock-down defense led by Colley.
The combination proved far too explosive for the Alton Redbirds (8-6, 5-2), who had beaten Edwardsville three times last season and eliminated the Tigers in the playoffs.
“One thing that I thought we did a pretty good job at most of the night defensively is we didn’t give them easy things,” Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. “They weren’t able to get all the way to our basket and our defense was solid most of the night. Chrys Colley has done an excellent job of playing defense.
That was really a big momentum changer. After that point we just really took it over from there.
Oliver Stephen on Edwardsville’s 11-0 run in the second half
“It doesn’t matter who he guards, he really does a good job of limiting what they do and I think he’s had a great year for us. I don’t think he ever came off the floor tonight, so I thought he made our defense very good.”
No Alton player has more than nine points, with Maurice Edwards and Jordan Golley each reaching that total. Edwardsville outscored Alton 19-9 in the third quarter and 41-26 in the second half after leading only 23-21 at halftime.
The game turned on a decisive possession with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter. Alton’s Maurice Edwards committed a foul, then was also assessed a technical foul.
Stephen nailed both free throws before the area’s leading 3-point shooter (he already has 54 this season) dropped one in from beyond the arc. It was a five-point swing and the Redbirds never recovered, with the Tigers’ run reaching 11-0 on a shot by Epenesa.
“That was really a big momentum changer,” Stephen said of the five-point swing. “After that point we just really took it over from there.”
The always menacing presence inside of Epenesa, a 6-5 junior and one of the top defensive end recruits in the nation, gives Edwardsville’s outside shooters a little more freedom.
It doesn’t matter who he guards, he really does a good job of limiting what they do and I think he’s had a great year for us.
Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo on Chrys Colley
“We know he’s a huge threat inside and we also have threats outside that can shoot,” Stephen said. “That’s just something we work on.”
The Tigers led 14-12 after the first quarter, then created a little space with a 7-1 run in the second quarter. Alton, which tried to exploit its quickness, answered with an 8-0 run of its own and a shot by Edwards tied it 21-21 before a power move to the rim by Epenesa resulted in a bucket that gave the Tigers a slim halftime advantage.
Waldo enjoyed seeing the balanced scoring.
“Our scoring was spread out because we played against a lot of pressure,” he said. “A lot of times what happens is you get out of a trap, you pass it and you find somebody open. I thought our guys did a really good job of passing the ball out of traps and out of double-teams.
“We didn’t take many bad shots.”
Edwardsville was 26-of-46 from the floor (56 percent) compared to 19-of-56 (34 percent) by Alton.
Edwardsville 64, Alton 16
In the girls game that preceded the boys game, Edwardsville junior Makenzie Silvey poured in 21 points and sophomore Rachel Pranger added 16 as the Tigers (16-1, 7-1) won their 12th in a row and overwhelmed Alton (2-14, 0-8).