From 30-0 any loss is going to be a hard fall.
Edwardsville, ranked No. 2 in the state, fell 61-50 to No. 5 Benet Academy in the Class 4A Girls Super Sectional at Illinois Wesleyan University's Shirk Center Monday.
It was an imperfect first quarter that spoiled an otherwise perfect season by Edwardsville.
The Tigers fell behind by 16 points early in the second half before mounting a furious comeback that, at one point, closed the Benet Academy lead to one point in the third quarter.
Benet Academy (32-3), champions of the East Suburban Catholic League, advances to the state semifinals Friday. Edwardsville (30-1) has nine months to look forward to a new season with all but one starter returning.
"It was a great season," said Edwardsville coach Lori Blade. "I'm sure they are disappointed tonight, but if you step back and look at what these kids accomplished, what a great achievement to even get here. I'm not into morale victories, but what a great season. It's a great group of kids to work with."
Benet Academy opened up a sizable lead early against the visibly rattled Edwardsville starters. Emily Eshoo, Elise Stout and 6-foot-1 sophomore Katie Jaseckas scored four each during the first quarter run that put the Redwings up 18-4.
The Redwings stretched the lead to 16 points with 5:47 left in the half when Blade called a time out. Whatever she said made a difference in the Tigers' demeanor.
"We got some big shots to give us an early and we needed every bit of that lead," said Benet Academy coach Joe Kilbride.
Edwardsville scored the next 10 points unanswered, including four from sophomore Rachel Pranger who had been held without a field goal until the 3:45 minute mark of the second quarter.
Emily Eshoo, who had nine points at the half, drained a three-point basket to slow down the Edwardsville rally briefly.
But Makenzie Silvey scored the next two baskets and Aaliyah Box closed the half with a steal and an outstanding move on a defender to cut the Benet Academy lead to 27-22 at halftime.
"As bad as it was, we got ourselves back into it," Blade said. That's what is so awesome about this group, their heart and determination to not quit. That's how they've been all year and we did it again tonight."
The Tigers kept up the charge into the third quarter. Silvey hit a wide-open three-point basket and scored on a drive through the line. Then Kate Martin and Pranger each scored to close the lead to 37-36 with :35 left in the third.
Morgan Thomalla stepped off the bench for Benet Academy to score a 3-pointer just four seconds later.
"We rushed some shots a little bit, but the girls kept their composure," said Kilbride. "The girls got frustrated after things got a little closer, but not really rattled. Morgan hit that big shot and that really gave us a spark. And, it wasn't just offense, she picked us up defensively as well."
Edwardsville twice closed the lead back to three, but Benet Academy slowly pulled away. Eshoo hit another 3 and Kathleen Doyle through a wide-open lane. The Redwings hit 10 of 12 free throws in the game's final 2:46 to preserve the victory.
"I said if we can hold them in the 50s we could win. We did hold them in the 50s, but we just let our chances go," Blade said. "You can't spot them that many points. They're too good for that.
"But I guarantee you we gave them a better game than they thought they were going to get on the way in."
The Tigers shot just 34.6 percent from the field, while Benet Academy shot 50 percent. Edwardsville won a 17-14 rebound advantage.
Silvey scored a game-high 17 points and Criste'on Waters scored a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Also scoring for the Tigers were Pranger with eight, Kate Martin with five, and Box and Amayha Dycus with four each.
For Benet Academy, Doyle scored 17 and Eshoo had 16. Emily Schramek scored eight, Elise Stout and Katie Jaseckas each scored six, Morgan Thomalla had five and Emma Hlavin had three.