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NORMAL – Six seniors for Edwardsville's girls basketball program played their final games at Redbird Arena Saturday evening.

The six seniors - Rachel Pranger, Myriah Noodel-Hayward, Kate Martin, Rachel Vinyard, Lauren Taplin and Sydney Koinsberg – all made contributions to the program during their four years wearing an Edwardsville uniform.

What may well stand out as the years go by, though, is the record of excellence that they all posted over the past four seasons.

When the final siren sounded in Saturday's third-place game of the 42nd IHSA Class 4A Girls Basketball Championship – a 45-41 loss to Des Plaines Maine West – what stood out was that the seniors had posted a 122-5 record over those four years, a mark that included a pair of trips to the state tournament and four straight trips to the super-sectional round.

“Their record speaks for itself,” said Tiger coach Lori Blade – herself no stranger to postseason success in the coaching ranks, having taken Carrollton to the Class 1A tournament three times, including back-to-back titles in 2000-01 and 2001-02 before taking over the Edwardsville program the next season. “Going beyond the record, they are one of the best classes I've had the opportunity to work with; they love to compete, which I greatly appreciate and I couldn't be more proud of what they've done the last four years, on and off the court.”

“I'm honored to go to this school,” Pranger said, “and be under coach Blade and do what we just did.”

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“It's amazing to play under this coaching staff and play with these girls,” Martin said. “We're never going to forget these moments; it sucks right now, but we're never going to forget this for the rest of our lives.”

“I've only been here for two years,” Noodel-Hayward said. “These girls are my sisters, you know; this is something I'll never forget.”

Quierra Love is just a sophomore, but her experiences with the senior class the last two years have taught her valuable lessons. “I'm always blessed to have this opportunity,” Love said, “especially with these six seniors; they taught me a lot as well as coach Blade and the coaching staff. Not everybody, especially as a freshman and a sophomore, gets to come to state, so I'm just taking this for what it is and I'll learn from these two years that I've had.”

While their time has come to an end, the legacy the seniors have laid down for the program is something they point to with pride. “We definitely are,” Pranger said. “We just worked hard for four years and we're successful – I know the girls underneath us will work hard like we did.”

“It shows just how hard work pays off,” Martin added, “and hopefully we've set the example; hopefully, we were good leaders and they will follow it.”

And that's not to say that the cupboard is bare; the programs at Liberty and Lincoln middle schools have enjoyed their share of success the past several years as well, plus the junior class this year is ready to step up and make their own mark on the program. “We'll see how things go,” Blade said. “We are graduating six very valuable kids and we've got a junior class that's ready to step in and get their turn; hopefully, we'll have some young kids come in and compete for spots in time, like we do every year.

“No one's going to feel sorry for Edwardsville basketball next year, like they never do, but we'll do what we can.”

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