1 of 2
Photo by Diane Cox
Steve Roustio wrapped up his eighth season as Granite City head coach this winter.
2 of 2
Photo by Theo Tate
Granite City players huddle before their Dec. 11 game against Alton. The Warriors finished 14-15 overall and 6-8 in Southwestern Conference play this season.
The last time the Granite City Warriors boys’ basketball team had a winning season, Bill Clinton was president, “Forrest Gump” won the Oscar for best picture and Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You” was a big hit on the radio.
That year was 1994.
The Warriors finished 15-12 after losing 17 games the year before. John Van Buskirk was in his second year as head coach and Larren Mosby, Jason Black, Chris Kult and Corey Wallis were among Granite City’s top players.
This year, the Warriors came very close to finishing with their first winning season in 22 years. Granite City finished a 14-15 mark after losing four of its final five games, including a 64-35 loss to the Quincy Blue Devils in the Class 4A Alton Regional semifinals on March 1.
“We had another little dip in our season and we couldn’t recover,” Granite City coach Steve Roustio said.
Still, Roustio was thrilled with the way his team played this season. The Warriors finished with their best mark in Roustio’s eight seasons as the school’s coach.
“I thought it was a very good season,” Roustio said.
Roustio was also pleased with the fan support. The Warriors had more than 100 students show up in several road games, including the ones against Alton and Belleville East.
“I was really appreciative of the student body this year,” Roustio said. “That was really nice with the school spirit at home and away games with the kids. A lot of credit has to go to some of our faculty members who did a nice job facilitating that like Linda Ames, Dawn Hamm and Karen Greenwald. Those teachers do above and beyond what their teaching job calls for. They make the experience for students here more global.”
The Warriors will lose three players to graduation — Kenny Berry and brothers Ron and Tra’ Allen. Berry was the Warriors’ leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, Tra’ Allen led the team in rebounds with 157 and Ron Allen finished in the top three in scoring, rebounds, steals and field goal percentage. Berry and Tra’ Allen were named on the all-Southwestern Conference team.
“Those kids have put in some incredible offseason workouts,” Roustio said. “Their work ethic outside the basketball season had a lot to do with the success.”
The Warriors will return several players next year, including brothers Jake and Jamie Roustio, Torrey Deal and Malique Mason. All of them are juniors.
“We’ve got some decent players,” Roustio said. “They’ve got to be willing to do the work. I think if they will, I think we’re going to surprise some people, even though we’ll graduate three very good players.”
Granite City has won 25 games in the last two seasons after getting just two victories in the 2013-2014 season.
“The Warrior program elevated to successful outcomes and additional competitiveness over the past two seasons,” said Roustio, who took over the Granite City program in 2008.
The Warriors started their season in November with a championship at the Stove Top Stuffing Thanksgiving Tournament. They were 5-1 after their first six games.
“We got out of the gate pretty good,” Roustio said. “We kind of had a wake-up call against Taylorville (in the Stove Top Stuffing tournament). We didn’t play very well and got beat. Then we woke up and won four straight before we dropped a game against Alton.”
Granite City went under the .500 mark after suffering a five-game losing streak in January. The Warriors played three of those games without Berry because of a knee injury he suffered Jan. 8 against East St. Louis.
“Had Kenny not been hurt, I think we would have been above .500,” Roustio said.
The Warriors were 13-11 after cruising to a 65-44 win over O’Fallon on Feb. 16. Then they lost three straight conference games to Belleville East, East St. Louis and Belleville West to close out their regular season. The loss to East went to overtime.
Granite City knocked off Collinsville 58-53 in double overtime during a first-round Class 4A Alton Regional game Feb. 29 for its first postseason victory since 2006. The Warriors beat Collinsville three times out of four meetings this season.
The 35 points against Quincy in the semifinals marked a season low for Granite City. Had they beaten the Blue Devils, the Warriors would have clinched a .500 season.
“From the time we played East on the road all the way to the Quincy game, I think we were mentally and physically fatigued,” Roustio said.
The Warriors finished sixth in the Southwestern Conference standings at 6-8 after winning just one league game last year. Granite City won its first two conference games, beating O’Fallon on the road Dec. 4 and Belleville West at home Dec. 8.
“The year before and some previous years, we’ve been able to make some strides non-conference, but this particular group this year knocked down the conference door, so to speak,” Roustio said. “They put us in a position where we can win some conference games.”
Since their last winning season in 1994, the Warriors have finished in double digit wins 11 times; five of those times were under Roustio. Roustio has 68 wins during his tenure as Granite City coach.