For the Edwardsville Tigers the improbable quest for a sixth straight Southwestern Conference championship became a reality on Thursday at Edwardsville High School.
Sophomore guard Mackenzie Silvey connected on a pair of 3-point field goals to highlight a 15-2 scoring run over the final six minutes of the third quarter as the Tigers broke open a close game and went on for a 58-36 win over East St. Louis before a large senior night crowd.
Ranked fourth in the latest Class 4A state poll, Edwardsville (24-0) also moved another step closer towards a sixth straight undefeated SWC season and has won 87 straight league games. Now 12-0 in conference play, Edwardsville has games with O’Fallon and Alton next week.
“Nobody thought we would win the conference title this year — nobody,’’ Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. “I thought we would contend. But to win a sixth straight championship and be undefeated at this point... It’s a testament to this group of girls on this basketball team and the coaching staff. This is a fun group to work with.’’
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Given all they wanted by the Flyerettes (16-4) in a 56-49 win at East St. Louis on Jan. 8, Edwardsville was again taken to the limit for the first two quarters on Thursday.
With senior Brelennair Cox using her bulk inside to score nine of her 13 points, the Flyerettes trailed only 23-21 at halftime. And when Arrisha Harris opened the third quarter with a pair of free throws and a 10-foot jumper, the Flyerettes led 25-23 with a little over six minutes remaining.
Silvey, a sleek 5-10 guard, then nailed a 3-point basket with 5:25 left in the third quarter and following a basket by freshman Rachel Pranger, Silvey nailed a second 3-point shot — this one from well beyond the top of the key. In a span of less then two minutes, the Tigers went from two points behind to a 31-25 lead in the physically played contest.
And it didn’t end there. Pranger nailed a short range jumper and when Criste’on Waters scored four points late in the period, Edwardsville had an 11-point lead.
The Flyerettes, clearly dismayed at what they felt was a lack of calls going their way in the contest, were never able to get closer then 11 points for the rest of the night.
East St. Louis was called for four technical fouls. Following the game, East St. Louis coach Shardae Butler declined comment.
Blade, whose last SWC loss as coach of the Tigers came at Belleville West in the 2009 season, said the difference in the second half for the Tigers was that they became more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket.
“I thought in the first half we were taking to many floaters. We weren’t taking the ball to the basket as hard as we needed too,’’ Blade said. “as a very physical game and there were some calls that weren’t made but we needed to become even more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket.
“We had some shots blocked and deflected by East St. Louis. They are a very good team. But if we had to pump fake while doing it, we needed remain tough and take the ball inside. I thought did a good job of that in the last two quarters. We were able to draw some fouls and until the last minute or so we did a good job at the foul line.’’
Silvey led Edwardsville with 19 points, while Pranger added 13. Cox had 13 points for East St. Louis.