What seemed to be little more than a go-ahead 3-point basket to close the first half by Makenzie Silvey on Thursday instead lit a fire under the Edwardsville Tigers in the title game of the Class 4A Belleville West Regional.
And it was Silvey who kept it burning in the third quarter.
A 5-foot-11 junior guard, Silvey scored 11 of her game-high 21 points to spark a 24-5 offensive burst in the third quarter as top-seeded Edwardsville took command and went on for a 59-36 win over Belleville West in a battle of perennial Southwestern Conference powers.
Soundly defeated by Edwardsville in its two regular-season games, the Maroons (18-12) controlled the tempo and led for much of the first half as senior Kayla Juenger led the way with six points.
But just one of the Tigers’ high-scoring quartet which includes Rachel Pranger, Criste’on Waters and Kate Martin, Silvey took the momentum away from the Maroons and gave it to her team — for good — with her 22-foot jumper to end the half.
“We knew it would be a tough game tonight because it’s hard to beat a good team three times in the same season. Belleville West is a good team,” Silvey said. “I felt good tonight and my teammates did a great job of setting screens to help get me open.’’
It didn’t take long for Edwardsville (28-1) to expand its 23-22 halftime lead as Silvey scored 11 points in a six-minute span. The Tigers led 47-27 after three quarters and coasted the rest of the way as they move into the Alton Sectional on Monday.
The SWC champion Tigers will take on the winner of the Granite City Regional title game between Belleville East and Quincy Notre Dame, which will be played on Friday.
Pranger added 12 points for Edwardsville, but the sight of seeing Silvey hitting big shots is nothing new for Edwardsville coach Lori Blade, who wasn’t pleased with the way her team played in the first half.
“(West) dictated the tempo of the game in the first half. But we allowed that to happen because we did a terrible job of rebounding. We couldn’t get the speed of the game the way we wanted if we couldn’t rebound,” Blade said. “The second half, we did a better job of rebounding so we were able to create a faster tempo. We also played better on defense in the second half.”
West also received five points each from Denazhia Pulliam and freshman B’Aunce Carter in the first half. But things quickly went sour for the seventh-seeded Maroons in the second half.
Silvey and Pranger both scored to start the third quarter and following a Maroons basket which cut their deficit to 27-24, Silvey took off.
After connecting on a pair of 3-point baskets from well beyond the 3-point line, Silvey added three-point play as Edwardsville took a 38-25 lead.
“We had a great game plan heading of packing our defense and in the first half, Edwardsville was content to let us do that. We were able to slow the game down,” Maroons coach Seth Garrett said. “Don’t get me wrong. The last time we played them, I think we were down 25 at halftime and so to be down by one ... I thanked the girls at halftime for giving us a chance.
“But there were two or three possessions we let get away. We had a chance to be up four or five points at half instead of being down one. If we’re up maybe we can control the tempo longer in the second half. When they get a lead, they are tough to play catch-up against.”
Silvey simply took over Edwardsville offense for a six-minute span in final seconds of the second and early part of the third quarter.
“Makenzie is the kind of kid who wants the basketball in big situations,” Blade said. “She wanted to take the shot to end the first half and she wanted the ball in the third quarter.
“But a lot of credit has to go to the other kids who did a nice job of setting screens to help her get open.”