COLLINSVILLE — Collinsville Kahoks basketball coach Darin Lee has 526 wins and five state tournament trips in 23 seasons, so he doesn't make bold pronouncements lightly.
That's what made his Friday statement following Edwardsville's 66-43 Southwestern Conference victory over the Kahoks a little more intriguing.
"They're as talented a team as I've ever coached against," Lee said. "I've been around a while and I haven't seen too many like that."
The Tigers (5-0) broke open a close game with a 17-2 run to finish off the first half that inflated a 27-25 lead to 44-27 by halftime.
A hyper-aggressive defense forced 22 Collinsville turnovers and Edwardsville had four players score in double figures led by Western Illinois recruit Garret Covington's 21 points.
Tre Harris and Armon Fletcher added 13 each for the Tigers --fourth in the Class 4A state rankings and first in the News-Democrat Large-School poll -- while Shawn Roundtree had 11.
"They've got a lot of guys that are going to play a lot of college basketball," Lee said.
A lot of the Tigers' offense came from the defense, a fact that Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo presses into his team's mental outlook.
"We have pride in our defense and when you play good defense, that's easy offensive points," said Covington, who had 10 points in the first quarter and 16 of his 21 in the first half. "They came out hot, first conference game at home, too, crowd with them. But our defense ... once again, hats off to our defense. We really shut them down."
There was no doubt about that as the Kahoks (3-2) many times had trouble getting open looks at the basket -- or even open looks at passes to teammates.
Edwardsville's swarming and relentless zone-trap defense was the primary reason.
"We just struggled against the trap," Lee said. "Obviously it's very hard for us to simulate that in practice with their length and athleticism. If we could have taken care of the ball in the traps we could have made it closer."
While it wasn't quite the 49-point victory that the Edwardsville girls basketball team posted over Collinsville the night before, there was little doubt about the outcome of this one for the final 2 1/2 quarters.
"I thought defensively we did a good job," Waldo said. "Even when they made some shots early in the game they made some hard shots. Defensively that was a big part of the win, obviously. We did a good job of scoring off our turnovers."
The Kahoks opened up an 8-2 lead, then watched the Tigers run off 14 of the next 17 points. Covington had 10 points in the opening quarter and 16 by halftime, sinking three of his five 3-point tries include one from about 23 feet at the end of the first quarter.
Collinsville tried to hang close with six 3-pointers in the first half and trailed 22-20 early in the second quarter.
Edwardsville ran away again, outscoring Collinsville 25-7 from there to grab a 44-27 halftime advantage. Tigers guard Shawn Roundtree capped the half with a 3.
Falando Wilkinson topped the Kahoks with 13 points and Briley Kellison added nine. Freshman Zeke Moore contributed eight points and Collinsville also sank eight 3-pointers.
Roundtree left the game after being slammed down hard on a shot attempt near the end of the third quarter. He did not return, but Waldo said the apparent ankle injury did not appear serious.