Edwardsville's A.J. Epenesa was all over the boards and net Friday night, accumulating 30 points against Belleville West. The 30 points was a high school career high for Epenesa. (Photo by Dan Brannan) Jalyn Williams goes up for a rebound as No. 10 Nathan Kolesa and No. 50 Zach Doornink look on Friday night against Belleville West. (Photo by Dan Brannan)

Jack Marinko handles the ball for Edwardsville on Friday night. (Photo by Dan Brannan)EDWARDSVILLEA.J. Epenesa tied a varsity career high of 30 points and teammates assisted and played strong defense through the second half as the Tigers toppled Belleville West 65-42.

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Epenesa connected on 13 field goals and four free throws for his 30 points.

Edwardsville and Belleville West were separated by only two points at halftime (41-39), but the Tigers ran away in the third quarter, outscoring the Maroons 27-11 to roll to a 65-42 victory.

“I think we did a good job running the plays and getting open looks,” Epenesa said. “ I was talking to some of the parents I met over the past week and one thing that was said to me coach (Mike) Waldo’s teams gradually get better and better as the season goes along.  I am seeing that this year. We enjoy playing basketball with each other and we are a bunch of brothers out there on the court.”

Waldo said that A.J. continues to improve each practice and game.

“A.J. practices hard and but he works at it,” Waldo said. “Our guys do a good job of looking for him. It is a good combination of our guys passing the ball well and him finishing it. “

Edwardsville’s Oliver Stephen added 18 points. Caleb Strohmeier contributed seven points, Mark Smith had five points and Chrys Colley had three points. Nathan Kolesa closed out Edwardsville’s scoring with two points.

Waldo said Belleville West is a very well-coached team and always well prepared.

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“They did a lot of things on offense that made it hard for us to defend," he said. "They put us in a lot of bad spots that first half with their offense. In the second half our guys did a really good job. Colley did a really good job of limiting touchdes to the two big uys. I thought Mark Smith and Oliver (Stephen) really really hustled hard on defense tonight."

Maroons coach Joe Muniz was satisfied with the way his team started the game shooting.

“I thought our guys were taking the right shots and shooting with confidence,” he said. “We had three or four guys in the paint and made shots early and those guys can make shots. The key in the game was the third quarter. You can say what you want to but if you get behind Edwardsville late in the game you are playing against their four corners. We are not real suited for that looking at our team and their team. They made shots and we didn’t.”

The Tigers improved to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the Southwestern Conference.

Waldo said each game in the Southwestern Conference will be difficult.

“I think the more reptition we get, the better we will be,” Waldo said. “Tonight was a good win, beating a well-coached team that plays well.”

Waldo said he is proud of how hard his team works and prepares for games.

“We have to keep getting better and be prepared for each game.”

Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo shakes the hand of Chrys Colley, an unsung hero in the game against Belleville West. Colley was the Tigers' strongest player on defense with teammate Caleb Strohmeier, also shown on the far right. (Photo by Dan Brannan)

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