Boys Basketball

Edwardsville blitzes Belleville East from all angles

Caleb Strohmeier talks Edwardsville's win

Edwardsville High School Tigers junior Caleb Strohmeier talks about his team's win over Southwestern Conference rival Belleville East High School Lancers during an IHSA boys basketball game played in Belleville, IL in southern Illinois near St. Lo
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Edwardsville High School Tigers junior Caleb Strohmeier talks about his team's win over Southwestern Conference rival Belleville East High School Lancers during an IHSA boys basketball game played in Belleville, IL in southern Illinois near St. Lo

Edwardsville made 12 3-pointers, received numerous dunks from seniors AJ Epenesa and Mark Smith and saw all five starters reach double figures Friday in a 95-72 victory over Belleville East.

Edwardsville (26-1, 13-1), ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A state poll, led 59-33 at halftime as it connected on 24 of 32 shots.

“We’ve been playing really good offensively. We’ve been putting together good game plans, and it showed tonight,” said 6-foot-7 Tigers junior Caleb Strohmeier, who scored 13 points. “They came out and guarded Oliver (Stephen) ... and it opened up the floor. We were getting some good looks.”

It was the 22nd consecutive victory for Edwardsville, which got a game-high 27 points from Epenesa, 19 from Smith, 16 from junior Jack Marinko and 12, all in the second half, from Stephen. Marinko and Stephen, a senior, each had four 3-pointers.

Epenesa was made all 10 of his shots from the field in the first half and 12 of 14 in the game. The 95 points were a season-high for the Tigers.

Epenesa and Smith took turns delighting a near-capacity crowd with their dunks. One of the best came in the first quarter when Smith inbounded the ball to Epenesa, who quickly lobbed the ball back to Smith for the first jam of the game. Epenesa had back-to-back dunks in the second quarter as the Tigers made 13 of their 15 shots from the field.

“Our guys did a good job of executing and taking what was open,” said Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo. “That’s a credit to our guys. We were able to get a lot of good, open shots because of our guys’ skill, but also their teamwork.”

Key moments

The Tigers raced to a 26-18 lead after a fast-paced first quarter, then scored 33 points in the second quarter to build their 26-point advantage.

East (15-12, 6-8) never recovered, although it twice got to within 15 points in the fourth quarter.

“We played the reigning No. 1 team, Bolingbrook, and now we just played the current No. 1 team,” Lancers coach Abel Schrader said. “I’m not taking anything away from Bolingbrook, but Edwardsville is really good. They have five spots, and it’s tough to match up with them, especially for us. We can’t match up down low.”

East, never a big team, also is playing without 6-3 junior Jordan Yates, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Feb. 3.

Key performers

Senior Javon Pickett scored 24 points to lead the Lancers. Senior Rico Sylvester had 20, and junior Malachi Smith had seven. 

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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