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HIGHLAND – Edwardsville's matchup against one of the traditionally top basketball programs in the Kansas City area, Rockhurst, turned out to be a tight contest.

The Hawklets and Tigers battled each other all day; the Tigers managed to pull to within three points to Rockhurst at a couple of points in the closing stages of the game, but Rockhurst managed to hold off Edwardsville to claim a 53-50 Saturday afternoon in the Scott Credit Union Highland Optimist Shootout at Highland High School. The Tigers fell to 10-4 on the season with the loss.

“I thought my guys did a great job against a really good team,” said Tiger coach Mike Waldo. “My guys battled and really played well.”

The Hawklets were an athletic team that featured players like 6-1 Xavier Rhodes, who led Rockhurst with 16 points and was named the game's MVP; they gave the Tigers a challenge around the baskets. “It's hard to score around the basket against them,” Waldo said, “because of their length and their jumping ability, and their quickness is good too; they're a hard team to defend because of their size and they have a couple of guys who can shoot and (Rhodes) is going to go to the basket.

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“I really thought my guys played a really good game; I thought they prepared well.”

The Saturday afternoon game took place almost immediately after the Tigers had taken a 71-59 win the night before against O'Fallon. “Our guys like to play, they like to work and they like to compete,” Waldo said. “That showed this morning; I'm sure they wanted to win – I know they did – but we'll keep working and try to get better.

“I'm not at all disappointed in today.”

The game started out fairly even, both teams having the lead at various points in the opening quarter before Rockhurst took a small lead at quarter time; the Hawklets pulled away some in the second period, but the Tigers kept things close thanks to timely scores from Jack Marinko and Caleb Strohmeier; Rockhurst held on to a 28-24 lead at the half, then pulled away in the third to lead by as much as five points, then extended it in the final quarter by as much as nine.

The Tigers hung tough and kept getting big three-pointers from Marinko, but could never slide past the Hawklets to take the lead; they did have one final chance trailing 53-50 with around three seconds to go, but an inbound pass was intercepted that allowed the clock to run down to end the game.

Marinko led all scorers with 29 points and Strohmeier adding 14 points; besides Rhodes' 16, Dalen Ridghal had 15 and Tyler Nelson nine for the Hawklets.

Next up for Edwardsville is a boys-girls doubleheader at Lucco-Jackson Gym with Alton; the girls game starts at 6 p.m., with the boys tipping off at 7:30 p.m.

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