By her own admission, Edwardsville junior Criste’on Waters isn’t very comfortable shooting 3-point jumpers. But on Thursday in the title game of the Class 4A Alton Girls Basketball Sectional, Waters was as smooth as silk.
Waters broke a 42-all tie with a 3-point jumper midway through the fourth quarter to key the Tigers second 17-0 scoring run of the night as Edwardsville broke away for a 59-42 win over the Rock Island Rocks.
Falling behind 17-0 and trailing 23-3 early in the second quarter, the Rocks (29-5) were forced to fight from behind against one of the state’s elite programs all night long. But when freshman Breanna Beal connected on back-to-back power moves to the basket with just over five minutes left in the game, Rock Island was even at 42.
But not for long. Waters, one of three Edwardsville players in double figures with 16 points, canned her 3-point jumper from just inside the right baseline to give Edwardsville the lead for good.
“I shoot 3-point jumpers in practice but not many in games. It’s not my shot,’’ Waters said. “I do know that I felt good tonight when I took it. It felt good coming out of my hand. I’m just thankful it went in.’’
The Rocks then committed consecutive turnovers which in turn led to four free throws by junior Makenzie Silvey as Edwardsville started to pull away. Silvey, who led all scorers with 21 points, made eigtht straight from the free throw line and the Tigers made 12 straight charity tosses in all down the stretch as they move into the Class 4A Bloomington Super-Sectional on Monday where they will take on Benet Academy.
Benet Academy defeated Oswego East 68-60 in the final of the Benet Academy Sectional on Thursday.
While the Tigers 17-0 run won the game, their 17-0 run in the first seven minutes set the tone early.
With Rachel Pranger scoring eight of her 16 points, Edwardsville (30-1) would never trail, but the Rocks certainly made things interesting during the final three quarters.
“We talk all the time about quick starts and for the most part we’ve done that this year. But in the two regional games we hadn’t been able start quickly,’’ Tigers coach Lori Blade said. “Thank goodness we did tonight.
“I’m so proud of these girls and this basketball team. We knew Rock Island would make a run at us and they did. But we were able to make the shots and the free throws down the stretch. We’re just looking to take this one game at a time. That’s the way we’ve approached it all along.’’
With breaking away at times from the great defense being applied by Tigers sophomore Kate Martin for four points and senior Annika Anderson scoring eight of her 12 points, the Rocks fought back to within 28-22 at halftime.
Pranger then tallied four points in the third quarter when Edwardsville maintained its 38-33 lead heading into the final period.
But Beal, despite being hounded by Martin, started to assert herself in the final quarter.
“I was excited to have the chance to guard her (Beal). I just didn’t know how big she was until tonight,’’ Martin said. “I just played as tough a defense on her for as long as I could. I gave it everything I had. We all did.’’
Silvey was the Tigers most consistent player on Thursday as she led the way with 21 points, while Pranger and Waters added 16 each. Beal led Rock Island with 15 points. The Rocks final chance went away when coach Thad Hoover was called for a technical foul with his team trailing by nine points with under a 1:30 left.
Silvey made eight straight free throws down the stretch for Edwardsville.
“We shoot 100 free throws every morning. It paid off tonight,’’ Silvey said. “We knew they (Rock Island) were a good team and that they would make a run at us.’’