Both coaches cited match-up problems, but in the end, Edwardsville’s size beat Highland’s quickness.
The result was a 62-46 Tigers win over the Bulldogs at the Waterloo Thanksgiving Tournament Monday.
Four Edwardsville players reached double figures, including 6-foot-5, 260-pound center A.J. Epenesa, whose greater contribution was his enforcement of the lane.
“Obviously the big kid is hard to handle,” said Highland coach Matt Elledge. “They have the inside-out game that causes some problems for us. We don’t to go to a zone because they shoot the ball. We doubled down and they shoot the ball. Pick your poison.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Epenesa, a defensive end for the Edwarsdville football team and one of the nation’s top college recruits, scored 14 points to go with nine rebounds. Junior Oliver Stephen, meanwhile, had four 3-point baskets as part of his game-high 19 points.
They have the inside-out game that causes some problems for us. We don't to go to a zone because they shoot the ball. We doubled down and they shoot the ball. Pick your poison.
Matt Elledge, Highland head basketball coach
Steven averaged more than 10 points a game last season as a sophomore. Tigers’ head coach Mike Waldo says his 6-foot-5 guard has improved his game in the off-season.
“Obviously, it’s always good to have guys who have been with you before and have some experience,” said Waldo, who is beginning his 27th year at Edwardsville. “Oliver is a more complete player and much better overall this year.”
Highland cut a nine-point Edwardsville lead to five at the end of the first quarter with two 3-point baskets each by Brode Portell and Will Greenwald.
Led by guard Chrys Colley, Epenesa and Stephen, the Tigers surged ahead on a 17-4, third-quarter run to open their biggest lead of the game, 50-33.
Highland cut the lead back to nine when Justin Twyford scored four in a 10-2 run at the start of the fourth quarter. But the Tigers took care of business at the free throw line and scored three more times from the field to seal the win.
Highland is a good team and they are hard for us to guard. We have bigger guys than they have, but we had a hard time matching their quickness.
Mike Waldo, Edwardsville head basketball coach
“Highland is a good team and they are hard for us to guard,” Waldo said. “We have bigger guys than they have, but we had a hard time matching their quickness.”
In addition to Epenesa and Stephen, Edwardsville got 14 points from Mark Smith and 11 from Colley.
Highland was led by Portell’s 13.
The tournament continues for both teams Tuesday. Highland (0-1) faces Althoff at 6:30 p.m. and Edwardsville (1-0) plays Carbondale.
CARBONDALE 73, O’FALLON 46
A young O’Fallon team was overwhelmed by the athletic Carbondale Terrirers in 73-46 loss at the Battling Bulldogs Thanksgiving Tournament.
Carbondale built a 21-7 lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Three players reached double figures and eight Terriers in total scored at least six points.
“It’s a tough way to start the season,” said O’Fallon head coach Rick Gibson, who has just two returning seniors from last season’s 17-11 team. “Carbondale is good and they’re strong and they’re quick. They were too much for us to handle.”
Carbondale opened a 26-point lead, its biggest of the game, at the end of the third. Darius Bean led the charge with 17 points for the Terriers.
For O’Fallon, senior Chance Armstrong scored a game-high 23 points.
“He’s our only player with any real varsity experience,” Gibson said. “We’re young and we’re trying to learn. I’m not unhappy with the effort.”
O’Fallon (0-1) is back in Waterloo Tuesday for a 5 p.m. game with the host Bulldogs.