JERSEYVILLE - Junior forward Brennan Weller led Edwardsville with 19 points, while Jack Nafziger added 10 and Nic Hemken nine, as good free-throw shooting late in the game helped spell the difference as the Tigers defeated Granite City 51-44 in the opening game of the Jersey Mid-Winter Classic Monday night at Havens Gym.

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The Warriors had cut a seven-point deficit down to one with 2:44 left in regulation on a three-point play by Freddy Edwards, but Edwardsville went six-for-10 from the line late to seal the win in a game that was close every step of the way.

"They were up 22-21 at halftime," said Tigers' coach Dustin Battas, "we outscored them 12-7 in the third quarter, and in the fourth quarter, the guys did better shooting our free throws tonight."

Twice, the Tigers hit free throws or a basket late, only to see Granite counter to get to within one, the last one a lay-in by Christian Jones with 45-44 with 1:47 left. But Edwardsville scored the last six points of the game, four of them from the free-throw line, to clinch the win. For the game, the Tigers were 15-of-21 from the line.

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"Our guys really had to tough it out against a really good Granite City team," Battas said, "and we were able to hold all of their players to single digits."

Indeed they did, as Edwards led the Warriors with nine points on the night.

"Our guys really tried hard, and executed all the things we've been practicing," Battas said. "We had a little trouble rebounding in the first half, but we did a lot better in the second half. Brennan and Jack got some big rebounds for us in the fourth quarter."

The Tigers are now 11-7 on the season and next play against Cahokia Wednesday at 6 p.m., and finish the round-robin tournament against the host Panthers Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Battas feels that for the Tigers to win, a simple formula plus good defense will equal victories.

"We're hoping to keep having more assists than turnovers, and continue with our strong defense," Battas said. "That really gives us a chance to score more baskets, because we aren't turning the ball over. We're looking forward to playing two good teams, and hoping we play our best games on Wednesday and Friday."

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