Boys Basketball

Three-pointers give Tigers winning edge over West

By the two head coaches' account, Belleville West played as well as it's played all year long.

But as West coach Joe Muniz said, "you can only guard so much."

Edwardsville got 13 points inside from 6-foot-5 sophomore center A.J. Epenesa, then shelled the Maroons from the three-point arc in a 64-57 Southwestern Conference win.

Twelve of the Tigers' 19 field goals were of the three-point variety, including six from sophomore Oliver Stephen.

"We wanted to chase them off the three-point line, but just couldn’t get back quick enough,” Muniz said. “When they shoot the ball as well as they do, it's a game of horse.”

Edwardsville started the game shooting six of seven from beyond the arc, opening an early 13-0 lead.

The Maroons didn't put any points on the board before Tyler Dancy scored on a tip-in at the 3:51 mark of the first quarter. But 3-pointers by Dan Marinko and Mark Smith widened the lead to 17 points with two minutes left in the quarter.

"I called a timeout and said 'we've got to win these next two minutes,'" Muniz said. "We got the lead down to 10 and I thought the guys played with great confidence in the second quarter. We moved the ball well got some good looks, and our guys made some shots. Mostly, I felt like we attacked them."

The Maroons chiseled their way back into the game with a persistent defensive effort led by Eugene Jones and Demond White. Jones scored six straight points for West to close the Tigers' lead to 27-16. Then Donovan Whitney and Austin Seibert his back-to-back 3s to close the lead to six.

Epenesa riled up the student cheering section with a dunk off a feed by Marinko, but West responded with scores by Dancy and White to make it a 34-30 game at the half.

"I thought Belleville West played an excellent game," said Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo. "(Jones) was a load in the first half. He either made shots or created shots and I thought defensively we were going to have to do a better job on him in the second half."

The Tigers did just that, limiting Jones to a free throw and West, as a team, to just five points.

"Kyler Davis has had a good season for us and I thought he did a tremendous job guarding (Jones)," Waldo said. "It's hard to chase him around all night, especially when he's got the ball all the time.

"I think the second half defense was probably the key to the game in the fact that we limited their scoring, particularly in the third quarter."

Edwardsville, meanwhile, embarked on a 12-0 run, punctuated by three-point baskets from Marinko and Stephen and another alley-oop dunk by Epenesa.

But West charged back again with a 15-8 run. Jones got back in it with 10 fourth-quarter points. A three-point basket by Whitney, his third of the game, put the Maroons back within six, 59-53, with a minute left.

It's as close as they would get.

"We came out slow again in the third quarter. We had some free throws we missed, some shots around the basket and a layup that we missed and we missed a wide open three," Muniz said. "If we get some of those to fall, we can build some momentum. But we didn't and to Edwardsville's credit, they made some great shots."

Edwardsville improved to 13-7, while the Maroons fell to 7-12.

Stephen led the Tigers with a game-high 24 points; Marinko had 14; and Smith and Epenesa each scored 13.

Jones led the Maroons with 19 points, White had 12, Whitney had 10, and Dancy and Seibert each scored six.