EDWARDSVILLE - Edwardsville's girls basketball team held their own and battled the defending IHSA Class 2A state champions Breese Materi Dei until the end in a contest on Wednesday afternoon at Lucco-Jackson Gym, but the Knights prevailed 49-42.

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Breese Mater Dei junior center Alyssa Koerkenmeier led the way with 15 points.

The Tigers mounted many comeback attempts to trail by five late in the game, but the Knights came up with the answers to hold off the Tigers and win their fourth game in as many starts. Edwardsville did play well throughout once again, and the improvement and chemistry is showing with every game.

"I told the girls I'm not into moral victories," Tigers' head coach Bryan Young said, "but I'm pretty proud of them on their progress. When you've got a big 6' 5" girl (in Koerkenmeier) in the paint, there; she got a lot of easy buckets. She was a big difference-maker. We did a good job in trying to contain her penetration, but they can just lob it up to her, and she makes those easy buckets, which probably was the difference in the game, I would say."

Mater Dei also showed why they're the defending state Class 2A champions as well, and why they are currently a top team this season.

"I get it; they're 2A champions," Young said. "But I think their experience was a big difference also. Being in that fire like that and being a champion, when the heat got on them, you could tell they had been in that fire before in those tough situations. They stayed pretty composed and didn't get rattled. We rattled them a little bit, but not enough to change the tide, because of that experience. They're winners."

Guards Sophie Shapiro and Blakely Hockett had very good games for the Tigers, and Young feels that they're starting to come together at the right time.

"Yeah, you could just see them starting to gel," Young said, "play together and work for each other, and it's exciting to see. I thought Gabby Cook came in; she had a great JV game and we talked it over as a staff to give her an opportunity in the varsity game, and she's had a good day, too. She had some very good minutes first off the bench. So I'm proud of her, proud of Blakely again. She's been real positive off the bench with some great energy. So, like I said, it's really coming together like I like to see it."

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As has been the case in the first three games of the season, the Tigers kept hanging in and fighting down to the final second. It's been a great sign for the team thus far.

The Knights jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the game, forcing the Tigers to take a time out. After the time out, Mia Semith hit a three and a pair of free throws to pull Edwardsville to within 8-7. The Knights countered with a 6-2 run, led by a basket from Ryann Becker and a three-point play from Avery Trame to take a 14-9 lead after the first period.

Mater Dei started off the second quarter by extending its lead to 16-10, which became 22-16 as Semith and Maris Zurleine both hit four straight threes by both sides. The Knights then went on to outscore the Tigers 7-4 the remainder of the period to take a 29-20 lead at halftime.

Free throws by both teams at the start of the third quarter brought the score to 34-24 for Mater Dei, before a three from Lainey McFarlin cut the lead to 34-27. But Koerkenmeier led a Knights' charge, where Mater Dei outscored Edwardsville 5-4 to bring the lead to 39-31 after three quarters.

Molly Peel hit inside right after the start of the fourth quarter to make the score 41-35, with baskets by Trame and Koerkenmeier taking the Mater Dei lead to 45-35. After that, the Tigers could get no closer than seven points as the Knight took their 49-42 win.

McFarlin led Edwardsville with 10 points, while Shapiro, Semeth and Hockett all had eight points each, Ellie Neath had four points and both Olivia Kolnsberg and Peel each scored two points.

Koerkenmeier led Mater Dei with 15 points, with Trame adding 13 points, Zurleine had 12 points and Amelia Beer, Addison RIngwald and Lily Butler all had three points each.

The Knights are now 4-0 on the year, while the Tigers go to 1-3 and face another tough test on Saturday against Evansville, Ind. Memorial in a noon tip-off. Evansville is currently sitting at 2-0 on the year and is going on a one-day trip to Metro-East to play the Tigers and Mater Dei later in the evening.

"I don't know much about them, yet," Young said, "but, obviously, they've got a pretty good program. They're willing to come down here and play us, and then, turn around and play Mater Dei. So yeah, I think they're probably pretty good."

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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