Girls Basketball

Undefeated Edwardsville defeats Belleville West in high school girls basketball

Having won six straight, 15 of 16 and a regional championship, it looked like Belleville West had gotten on a roll at the right time.

The problem for the Maroons is that Edwardsville, their opponent in Tuesday’s class 4A girls sectional semifinals, has been on a roll since the first game of the season.

The Tigers remain undefeated after 29 games, including Tuesday's 48-41 win over Belleville West. They'll advance to the Pekin Sectional championship game against Rock Island Thursday.

After losing five starters from last season's super-sectional qualifier, Edwardsville coach Lori Blade admitted her young team was a bit of an unknown.

"When you graduate all five starters, we're just looking forward to getting out of the regional," she said. "To say we're looking forward to a sectional, I don't know. I had people tell us we'd go .500. Right now, I love where we are, I love this group because of where our chemistry is. I'm glad they get to keep playing."

Belleville West's season ends at 25-6. The sectional loss ends the stellar careers of seniors Imani Berry, Shay Fluker and Alliyah St. John. It also may be the end for coach Clayton Fisher, who has hinted that this season may be his last.

But he didn't want to discuss that Tuesday night.

"I don't like to use the word proud, because of course I'm proud of them," Fisher said of his team. "I told them to hold their heads up when they leave here. They're upset and the should be because it's the end of really good careers."

Freshman Rachel Pranger and sophomore Mackenzie Silvey gave Edwardsville a 9-0 lead before Imani Berry scored the first field goal of the game for West.

The Tigers' extended the lead 14-2 on baskets from Chris Waters and Aamiyah Dycus before the Maroons started scoring in threes. St. John, Berry and Fluker each hit three-point baskets to put the Maroons back in the game.

West closed on a 6-2 run to make the halftime score 20-14.

"I told the girls at halftime, we were down 20-14 and we had to be happy about where we were at that point," Fisher said. "They got off a nice little run to start the second half but then we outscored them. From about the four minute mark (of the third quarter) to the four minute mark (of the fourth), we were the better team."

Edwardsville opened the lead back to 10 points on baskets by Pranger, Silvey and Waters. But Berry scored seven straight points and Fluker hit the front end from the free throw line to close within two for the first time since the start of the game.

After baskets by Pranger and Waters, Fluker drained a three-point shot and a short jumper from the lane, and St. John scored a pair of free throws to put West on top, 35-34.

The Tigers outscored the Maroons down the home stretch on a series of stick-back baskets by Waters and Pranger. Edwardsville also took care of business at the free throw line, hitting seven of their last eight attempts.

"(Waters) was huge. She had a three-minute span where she got some put-backs and hit the boards hard," Blade said. "It was the same with Rachel. She had a big game offensively."

Fisher said the Tiger tandem made the difference in the game.

"We took a lead and we had a couple of bad defensive possessions where they got put-backs off offensive rebounds," he said. "We did not rebound like we should have at that point."

Pranger scored a game-high 19 points for Edwardsville, Dycus had nine and Silvey and Waters each scored eight.

Berry led the Maroons with 15, Fluker had 14 and St. John scored nine.