Despite lopsided numbers on the scoreboard, Collinsville coach Darin Lee was happy with his team’s intensity and defensive effort.
The Edwardsville Tigers simply had too many offensive weapons for the Kahoks to handle them all.
Oliver Stephen drained five 3-pointers, and Caleb Strohmeier and A.J. Epenesa provided solid post scoring, as the Tigers rolled to a 73-40 victory over Collinsville on Friday at Vergil Fletcher Gymnasium.
“They can all score points,” Lee said. “That’s a very difficult team to guard. It’s very hard to match with Epenesa 1-on-1, so if that causes a double, that’s going to leave somebody open. You have to guess and take a chance, and Oliver Stephen’s not going to miss shots. 3-pointers are like layups to him. They’re just a fantastic team.”
Stephen led all scorers with 17 points, Strohmeier added 15 and Epenesa contributed 14, including a thunderous dunk to start the fourth quarter for the Tigers (6-1, 2-1 SWC). Jack Marinko added three 3-pointers, all in the first half.
“We all can shoot threes,” Stephen said. “So it’s just whoever’s open has to take it, and most of the time they were going in.”
The Tigers finished 10-of-18 from beyond the arc, but hit 8 of their 12 long attempts in the first half. Their offense was so efficient that point guard Mark Smith, who came into the game with a team-leading 24 points per game, mainly played his distributor role, scoring seven but adding assists on more than half of his team’s first-half buckets.
Collinsville (3-5, 0-3 SWC) stayed with the Tigers in the first quarter, leading by as many as four points early. Edwardsville slowly extended its lead in the second quarter, before going on a 9-0 run to close the half, including an off-balance 3-pointer by Stephen as time expired. The run continued into the third quarter, as the Kahoks managed just 13 points in the middle two periods. Austin Knight scored all of his team-high 12 points in the first half, and Ronnie Midgett scored 7 of his 10 before the break.
Besides his 14 points, Epenesa forced the Kahoks into a perimeter game with his fierce post defense. The 6-foot-5 Iowa football recruit had 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. About the only thing he didn’t do was join his teammates in attempting a 3-pointer.
“We tried to draw him away from the basket, but that only works when we have the lead,” Lee said. “Once we lost our momentum, we had to settle for jump shots, because you’re not getting anything around the basket when he stays in front.”
Edwardsville plays at Granite City at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and Collinsville hosts Alton at 7:30 p.m. Friday.