EDWARDSVILLE - Senior forward Syd Harris led Edwardsville with 24 points, one of three Tiger players to score in double figures, as Edwardsville went on a 12-0 run in the final part of the first quarter to take a big lead and never looked back as the Tigers defeated Whitfield of Creve Coeur, Mo. 65-45 in a game between two of the top-rated programs in St. Louis Friday night at Lucco-Jackson Gym.

The win came over a Warrior team that won last year's Missouri Class 5 title, and was ranked second in the small school poll in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rankings.

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"Yeah, I told them that today's a great opportunity to play a really good team," said Tigers head coach Caty Happe, "and I thought we went out there and executed really well. And, obviously, always things to work on, but it was good to get out there and play another competitive opponent."

The return of seniors Elle Evans and Macy Silvey from COVID protocols has made a big difference for the Tigers, and both were on their games as well, with Silvey connecting for 17 points and Evans adding 16.

"Yeah, with the three of them hitting, it really spreads the rest of them out," Happe said. "And I thought Emma (Garner) did a really good job, Kaitlyn (Morningstar) did a really good job on the inside. And I thought we did a really good job of taking care of the basketball."

The fact that Whitfield was playing its first game in nearly a month due to COVID protocols both within the Warriors team, as well as many of their opponents, doesn't diminish the fact that Whitfield is a very good quality program that is a regular Missouri state contender. And to defeat the Warriors is a big feather in Edwardsville's caps.

"It does," Happe said. "And Whitfield hasn't played for a long time and they're going to respond. They fought back throughout the game, and they're going to continue to get better. But it was awesome to play them; they make us better."

As always, the mindset of the Tigers focused on one thing.

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"To compete," Happe said. "Take every opportunity we have. We've seen how COVID has affected us some this year, so getting to play somebody is a great opportunity to get better and continue to get better for the postseason."

The teams started out the game by trading baskets before a score from Brooklyn Rhodes gave the Warriors a 7-5 lead. That would be the last time Whitfield would see the lead, as a Harris basket and three from the top of the key gave the Tigers a 10-7 lead. A basket from Evans and another Harris three pushed the lead to 15-7 and before the quarter was over, a pair of Morningstar free throws gave Edwardsville a 17-7 lead at the end of the period.

The Warriors struck back at the start of the second on a basket by Rhodes, but the Tigers then reeled off six straight points from both Silvey and Morningstar to go ahead 23-9. After a Treazure Jackson basket made the score 23-11, Harris, Evans and Silvey led another charge that brought the score to 30-13, but the Warriors kept fighting back, and by the end of the first half, outscored the Tigers 8-7 the remainder of the second quarter, with Edwardsville leading at halftime 37-21.

The start of the second half saw Harris drain a three to make the score 40-21, but back-to-back baskets from Rhodes and Jackson cut the lead to 40-25. Edwardsville went on a 10-2 run behind Harris, Evans and Garner to go ahead 50-27 with 3:07 left in the quarter, and after the COVID time out, the Tigers went on a 9-5 run with Harris connecting on a pair of threes and Silvey also hitting a pair of baskets to make the score 59-32 Edwardsville after three quarters.

The final period saw the Warriors coming back on a pair of free throws by Tkiyah Nelson and baskets from JaNyla Bush and Rhodes to cut the lead to 59-37, forcing an Edwardsville time out. The Tigers regrouped and re-upped the lead to 62-41 and from there, the Tigers went on to their 65-45 win.

Garner and Morningstar scored four points each to join Harris, Evans and Silvey, while the Warriors were led by 12 points each from Rhodes and Jackson, while Bush and Nelson had four points apiece and Britney Rhodes scored two points.

The Warriors are now 8-3 on the season, while the Tigers improve to 18-4 and prepare for Southwestern Conference games at O'Fallon on Tuesday and at Belleville East next Thursday, both games starting at 7:30 p.m. Edwardsville is also hopeful of adding another game to its slate for next Saturday, Jan 29. And with almost the entire roster having returned, it's back to business as usual for the Tigers.

"It is," Happe said. "We've got one more out, we're getting her back next Thursday, but we're starting to get it together."

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