O'FALLON - Skylar Jones led the way with 20 points, while both Lisa Jones and Destiny Jackson added 12 points each as Chicago Whitney Young defeated Edwardsville 61-30 in the Tigers' season opener at the Southern Illinois Shootout Saturday afternoon at the OTHS Panther Dome in O'Fallon.

The Dolphins had complete control of the game throughout, going on a 13-0 run in the second quarter, then outscored the Tigers in the third 20-4 to put the game away.

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The game did allow many of the younger players who were making their varsity debuts a chance to gain valuable experience and playing time against a high-quality opponent such as Whitney Young.

"We knew this was a tough game on the schedule from the get-go; it's a very talented Whitney Young team," said Edwardsville head coach Caty Happe. They're obviously ranked for a reason. I told the girls it wasn't going to be an easy game by any means, but I was a little disappointed in our fight. It's hard for those kids who haven't yet stepped on a varsity court, but I thought we could have competed and given them a lot better game than what we did today."

The Dolphins play a very tough and physical brand of defense and it was very hard for the Tigers to simulate those conditions.

"We're going to have to be a physical team and dig in," Happe said. "That's every day in practice. For them to see what a true varsity game is like, to compete at a high level, is really important for us. We'll only get better."

There were still plenty of things to like about the opener, including senior Ashlyn Hauk's performance, especially in the fourth quarter, where she started to take charge and score a team-high eight points.

"You know, I thought after we got down a little bit, I had some kids in there with some bright spots," Happe said, "who really did some good things that we were asking for. So we executed a few plays that we wanted there, and we mixed it up defensively between our man and our zone; our zone looks better than our man today. Really, they didn't quit, we just could have fought a little bit harder."

It's only the first step in the 2022-23 journey and Happe knows that the Tigers will be a much different team in February than they are in November, as the team gains more experience.

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"It's awesome," Happe said. "I told them this is game one, we're going to look totally different after game 30. But like I said, that's an active choice every day. We've got to continue to get better in this game. I told them we've got to use it to get better. If it does, then this is a great test for us to start."

The Dolphins were as good as advertised in the game, as a long, athletic team with Skylar Jones being one of the best players in the state.

"I mean, they're a handful," Happe said. "They can shoot it, they can drive it, they work really well, they added a big in the middle of it. So they're really tough to guard, so it is a hard match-up for us, especially to start. Again, it's a good test."

The Dolphins scored the game's first five points and seven of the first nine to take a 7-2 lead early on, then after an exchange of baskets, Alana Shields hit a three up top and Jones hit a pair of free throws to give Whitney Young a 14-6 lead after the first quarter. In the second, baskets from Kaitlyn Morningstar and Hauk pulled the Tigers to within 16-10, but the Dolphins, led by both Skylar and Lisa Jones, went on a 13-0 run to bring the score to 29-10 before a Morningstar free throw ended the string at 29-11, with Whitney Young leading at halftime 31-13.

Jones started the third quarter with a three and Jackson followed up with a basket of her own to expand the Dolphins' lead to 36-13, and from there, Whitney Young outscored Edwardsville 15-4, with Hauk connecting on a three and Blakely Hockett hitting a free throw for the Tigers' only points, as the Dolphins took a 51-17 lead after three quarters, triggering the fourth quarter running clock rule. The Tigers rallied in the fourth, behind the efforts of Hauk, who scored six of Edwardsville's 13 points in the period, but the Dolphins went on to their 60-31 win.

Hauk led the Tigers with eight points, while both Morningstar and Mia Semeth has six points each, Emerson Weller, playing in her first varsity game in about a year after sitting out the 2021-22 season with a knee injury, scored five points, Layne Logan had two points and Hockett scored a single point.

The Dolphins are now 1-1 on the season, while the Tigers open up 0-1 and play at Breese Mater Dei Catholic in a 6 p.m. start, then play in a shootout at Castle High in Newburgh, Ind. on Saturday, meeting Reitz Memorial Academy of Evansville at 12 noon and Castle High at 7 p.m.

"Another tough one," Happe said. "You're going to hear me say that all year, it's another tough one coming next,' she said with a smile. "But you know, we're going to be a little bit better prepared for that one, now that we've seen a full-speed game, so I expect a different team on Wednesday."

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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