Girls Basketball

Edwardsville responds to Belleville East challenge for key Southwestern Conference win

Edwardsville Tigers beat Belleville East Lancers

The Edwardsville Tigers beat the Belleville East Lancers in the final moments of the Class 4A regional championship Friday night.
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The Edwardsville Tigers beat the Belleville East Lancers in the final moments of the Class 4A regional championship Friday night.

Edwardsville guards Jaylen Townsend and Quierra Love combined for 29 points and connected on backbreaking 3-point field goals to end a Belleville East third quarter scoring spurt as the Tigers went on for a 62-54 win Tuesday.

Ranked third in the Class 4A state poll, the Tigers dominated the first half.

With Love and Townsend helping to control the tempo and senior center Morgan Hulme helping to hold Lancers senior B’Aunce Carter to just two points, Edwardsville (22-2) built leads of 19-9 after one quarter and 32-21 at halftime.

But finally living up its potential following the return of senior guard Kaylah Rainey from open heart surgery and riding a seven-game winning streak, the athletic Lancers responded early in the third quarter.

A pair of baskets by Carter, followed by a layup by Rainey, cut the Tigers’ lead to 32-27 and when Carter scored again with just over four minutes remaining, the Lancers were within three points.

But the Tigers responded. First freshman Sydney Harris made a 3-point field goal and when Love and Townsend responded with 3-point baskets on consecutive possessions, the Tigers’ lead was back to double figures at 41-29.

“They (East) are a very good athletic basketball team and I thought we did a good job of slowing them down in the first half,’’ Tigers coach Lori Blade said.

“But we knew and we told the girls at halftime that they were going to make a run. The key was not to allow them to have an extended scoring run. We responded by making three straight 3-point shots. That was great to see.’’

Belleville East (15-10) would close to with seven points early in the fourth quarter on a pair of baskets by Bryce Dowell. But Love, who paced the Edwardsville attack with 16 points, responded by making four straight free throws and once again, the Tigers’ lead was safe.

“The difference was the first quarter. I don’t know if we were nervous or what it was. We weren’t moving and we were just flat,” Lancers coach Amanda Kemezys said.

“In our recent games we had jumped out to big leads. When we fell behind early, we just didn’t respond very well. I think we played them even after the first quarter. But you can;t spot an opponent a 10-point lead. ... especially one like Edwardsville.’’

Townsend added 13 points while Hulme, a physical 5-foot-10 forward, added nine points for the Tigers who all but wrapped up the top seed for the Class 4A regional-sectional complex.

“It’s a big win as far as the Southwestern Conference but it’s even more important in terms of the seeds for the postseason,’’ Blade said. “I’m just very pleased. This was a very nice team win tonight.’’

Carter led East with 16 points, while Dowell (14 points) and Nyah Ford (10) also aided the Lancers’ effort.

“It’s back to the drawing board and get ready to play a very good East St. Louis team at home on Thursday,’’ Kemezys said. “We just didn’t shoot the basketball very well tonight. We make a few more shots and it’s a different game.

“All we can do is keep working hard and hopefully get another shot at them (Edwardsville) in the postseason.’’

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