O’FALLON – Jaylon Tuggle and A.J. Robertson had 13 points apiece for Edwardsville, but Amarey Wills’ floating layup with 17.7 seconds left in regulation was the difference as Edwardsville lost to O’Fallon 42-40 Friday night in a Southwestern Conference basketball game at the Panther Dome.

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It was a close game throughout, with the biggest lead of the game being six early on, but neither team led by more than three down the stretch.

“Yeah, new game, same story,” said Edwardsville head coach Dustin Battas. “We’re right there, gave ourselves a chance to win, but just couldn’t execute a few things we wanted to. Defensively, we had a couple of mishaps on that last possession, and let them get a layup out of the time out. That’s a tough pill to swallow. We just had a little bit of confusion it looked like; I may have misspoken at time out, and that’s what led to that layup which put us down two.”

By the same token, there were a lot of positives that helped give the Tigers a chance to win, especially a pair of clutch threes from both Tuggle and Robertson late that either pulled Edwardsville close, or tied the game in the final seconds.

“Yeah, I think our guys really tried hard, and executed a lot of good things,” Battas said. “We ran a set play there to get it tied, we ran a set play a couple of possessions earlier to give us the lead. We just had a hard time getting a stop when we needed one. Part of that was they had spread us out throughout their delay game; we chased a little bit, and then we got the lead back. And anytime you’ve got the lead or tied, you don’t want to chase, and we got caught chasing there when we didn’t really want to. That’s what hurts so bad is, I just told them, we practice so hard, and we want to do good. We just have a hard time knowing what that looks like. And our job as coaches is to try to show them what it looks like. But our guys are really, really trying. And we’ve been right there so many times.”

And the Tigers are making progress offensively, and executing their offense better.

“Yeah, I think we’re definitely executing things better on offense,” Battas said. “I thought Malik (Robinson) had a really good game of taking what the defense gave us. And Brennan (Weller) and Nic (Hemken), around the basket, are starting to do a lot of good things. Our guys are just getting more comfortable. And A.J. made a big shot there at the end, and Jaylon Tuggle really had a good game, probably his best game for us, unfortunately had a couple of tough fouls, and couldn’t play as many minutes, but he’s starting to look more aggressive on offense, and had some sets to get him space that he executed well. So there’s certainly some bright spots. It hurts because we felt like it’s another one we let slip through our fingers, and you get so many chances in so many games. And certainly, yeah, there’s some positives that we will try to point out. And like I’ve said all along, we want to praise the positives and coach the negatives.”

After the two teams traded baskets to get the proceedings underway, Tuggle and Robertson both hit threes to give the Tigers an early 8-2 advantage, but Drew Tebbe countered with a three of his own to cut the lead to 8-5. Edwardsville then upped the lead to 11-7 before a pair of Wills baskets, with a Kyle Dismukes basket in between, gave O’Fallon its first lead at 13-11. Tuggle hit a three on the side right before the buzzer to give the Tigers a 14-13 lead after one.

Caleb Burton opened the second quarter scoring with a drive to the hoop to make it 15-14 for O’Fallon, and a Logan Lowery three in the corner upped the Panther edge to 18-14. A Weller free throw and a Robinson basket on a nice drive cut it to 18-17, and the Panthers decided to hold for the last shot of the half. O’Fallon did get a shot, but it missed, and the teams went into halftime with the Panthers on top 18-17.

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Robertson hit a three at the top of the key early in the third to give the Tigers a 20-18 lead, but a pair of free throws by Shaun Riley II put the Panthers level at 20-20. Another Tebbe three gave O’Fallon a three point lead, but free throws from Robertson and Hemken tied the game back up. Riley hit from inside to give O’Fallon the lead right back, which eventually became three, and a pair of Riley free throws made it a four point game at 29-25. Robertson hit a three on the side right before the buzzer to pull the Tigers to within 29-28 at three quarter time.

At the start of the fourth quarter, a Tuggle three and a free throw by Robinson gave Edwardsville an early 32-29 cushion when the Panthers called time out with 5:44 left. A three-point play by Dismukes tied the game at 32-32, and then Dismukes hit both ends of a one-and-one to give the Panthers a 34-32 lead. Weller tied the game again with a nice shot inside, and after a O’Fallon free throw, Tuggle’s three gave the Tigers a 37-35 lead about three minutes left.

Tuggle fouled out with 2:49 left in regulation, and a Dismukes free throw cut the Edwardsville lead down to one. Tebbe gave the Panthers the lead on a floater inside with 1:32 left, and a Burton lay in extended the lead to 40-37 with less than a minute left. The Tigers called time out, and Robertson cooly hit a clutch three from the top of the key with 46.3 seconds left to tie the game at 40-40. The Panthers then called time, and set up a play that ended in Wills’ drive and lay in with 17.7 seconds left to give O’Fallon a 42-40 lead. The Tigers got the ball back up, and in a scramble for the last shot, Hemken was fouled with 1.1 seconds left. Hemken missed the front end of a one-and-one, and a shot off the rebound hit off the side of the backboard and bounced away to give the Panthers their 42-40 win.

Dismukes led O’Fallon with 11 points, while Wills had 10 and Tebbe had eight. Grant Schaefer added seven points for the Tigers.

Edwardsville, now 3-10 on the season, gets right back at it in the Highland Shootout Saturday morning, going up against Normal Community West in the curtain raiser at 10 a.m. Battas thinks it’s a good thing that the Tigers get right back into the fray.

“Yeah, I think it’s great that we have a game tomorrow,” Battas said. “I think our guys are competitive, so they’ll want to play; they’re not worried about the fatigue factor at all. Belleville West played a game tonight, too. So, I think it’s great that we get to play right back tomorrow. We’ll have a practice before we go over there tomorrow, and just hopefully execute a few things better.”

And it’s just a matter of time before the Tigers break out and have a big game.

“I hope so,” Battas said. “We’ve been right there a couple of times, and we’re just a basket here or there away from getting the lead, and we’re confident that if we can get a one possession or two possession lead, then they’ve got to chase us, with us having the ball. We just haven’t been able to get into that situation a whole lot. And it’s just been a play here or there, just one break we need to go our way is where we’ve been right now.

“We’re just going to keep working, and the biggest thing we’ve got right now is we’ve got to practice good every day,” Battas also said, “and we’ll keep working to do that.”

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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