Girls Basketball

Edwardsville holds off O’Fallon for key Southwestern Conference victory

Edwardsville head coach Lori Blade.
Edwardsville head coach Lori Blade.

The O’Fallon Panthers withstood one lengthy scoring run by the Edwardsville Tigers but they couldn’t overcome a second on Friday at the Panther Dome.

Junior guard Quierra Love scored seven of her game-high 14 points in the second quarter to help spark a 14-0 Tigers scoring run and Edwardsville held off a late rally for a 43-34 win in a Southwestern Conference game.

With Love and senior guard Madelyn Stephen connecting on 3-point shots, Edwardsville (16-2, 5-0) broke a 9-9 tie to take a 23-9 lead late in the second quarter before O’Fallon closed to within 10 points at halftime.

Ranked fourth in the Class 4A state poll, Edwardsville built its lead to as much as 15 points early in the second half before withstanding a fourth quarter in which it scored only six points, all from the free throw line.

O’Fallon (12-4, 3-2) closed to within 38-34 on a basket by junior Kayla Goordon with 2:23 remaining. But after a missed layup by the Panthers, Love made two free throws with 1:16 remaining to extend the lead to 40-34.

O’Fallon would get no closer as Love added two more free throws. The 5-foot-6 guard was 5-of-6 from the charity stripe, all in the final three minutes of the game.

“It was really a story of two halves. We hit shots the first half and they hit them in the second and we couldn’t hit nothing. They had some easy baskets, but I was pleased at how we held our composure,’’ Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. “We didn’t back down and we did just enough to win the game.’’

While Edwardsville made the plays in the end, O’Fallon fell short. After rallying behind Gordon, who scored 12 of her 13 points in the second half and getting a pair of key 3-point baskets from Makaya Best, the Panthers failed to come through on a night when they could have posted a rare win over one of the premier programs in the state.

O’Fallon was 0-for-6 from the free throw line in the fourth period and missed at least three shots within three feet of the hoop.

“ Down by 14 points at one time and 10 at halftime, I challenged the girls and they responded well,’’ O’Fallon coach Nick Knolhoff said. “ We battled back, cut it to four points and gave ourselves a chance.

“’But going 0-for-6 from the free throw line and missing a couple of layups in transition like we did ... you have to convert on those chances in order to beat a team like Edwardsville. I’m sure fatigue played a factor and the girls are pretty upset about it. But I told them to look at the fight they gave Edwardsville.’’

Freshman Sydney Harris added 11 points and Stephen chipped in with 10 for Edwardsville, which already holds a two-game lead in the battle for the SWC title.

“It’s a huge win as far as the conference goes,’’ Blade said. “Coming into the season, I felt they (O’Fallon) were one of the top two or three teams in the conference. Nothing that happened tonight changed that view. That’s a very good team we beat. Nick (Knolhoff) has done a great job with his team.’’

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