O’Fallon struggled out of the gate Thursday, and it proved to be the difference.
Senior Makenzie Silvey and junior Rachel Pronger scored 16 points apiece as the Edwardsville Tigers defeated the Panthers 62-52 in a Southwestern Conference game.
It was the 79th-consecutive home triumph for the Tigers (15-0, 6-0), who outscored O’Fallon 25-8 in the first quarter. The Panthers outscored Edwardsville 44-37 in the final three quarters.
“I thought (in) the fourth, we struggled,” Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said, referring to O’Fallon scoring 17 of the 24 points in the quarter. “I don’t know if we were tired or what the deal was. We had good shots; we just couldn’t hit them. That made it a little bit tougher than what it should have been.
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“But we’ll take the win. We’ve got to dig in and grind it out at this point.”
O’Fallon (9-5, 5-2) did its part to make things difficult for Edwardsville, ranked fourth in the Class 4A poll. The Panthers forced 19 turnovers and made eight 3-pointers. They also handled the ball better in the second half, committing just four turnovers compared to 13 in the first half.
The Panthers’ 52 points were the most Edwardsville has given up in a game this season.
“I am pleased with how my kids battled,” O’Fallon coach Ryan Massey said. “That’s the No. 4 team in the state of Illinois that just went up north and won the Oswego East Tournament and beat some really, really good teams up there. It’s no secret how good they are.”
Junior Marta Durk led all scorers with 19 points. Durk made three 3-pointers and was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Senior Caitlin Kayser hit four 3-pointers and had 14 points.
Edwardsville made 11 of its 16 first quarters shots from the field to build a commanding 17-point lead. The Tigers’ lead was 38-21 at halftime.
O’Fallon fell behind 55-35 after three quarters but stormed back and inched within 56-45 when Kayser nailed a 3-pointer with 4:37 to play, culminating a 10-1 run.
The Tigers settled, however, as Pranger made three free throws and dropped in a rebound basket that made it 61-47 with 1:09 to play. Kayser hit another 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining, but O’Fallon’s deficit was too large.
“They can shoot it,” Blade said. “No lead is safe when you can shoot the 3 like they’re capable of shooting. And they caused some problems for us with their penetration and kicking it out and knocking them down. But I don’t expect us, with the size advantage that we have, to shoot 35 percent and not take advantage in the paint. ... We’re better than that.”
Massey bemoaned the first quarter when Edwardsville repeatedly outraced the Panthers down the floor and converted layups off transition.
“Obviously, I haven’t looked at the film yet, but in my mind, I think we gave up 30 points in transition baskets,” Massey said. “If we can make them play in the halfcourt, I think that’s a different ballgame down the stretch. It helped that we made some shots. But our girls just played. They competed, and that’s what I’m proud of.”
Blade was displeased by her team’s high number of turnovers.
“A lot of them were unforced,” she said. “They sped us up a little bit at times and that caused that. We didn’t value possessions very well, especially at key times when they were making a run.”
By the numbers
O’Fallon shot 42 percent from the field (18-for-43) and 80 percent from the free-throw line (8-for-10). The Panthers also shot 42 percent on 3-pointers (8-for-19). Kayser was 4-for-6.
The Tigers shot 44 percent (25-for-57) from the field, but just 22 percent on 3s (2-for-9). Edwardsville shot 56 percent on free throws (10-for-18).
Edwardsville also got double-figure scoring from junior Kate Martin (11 points) and junior Myriah Noodel-Haywood (10 points).