GODFREY – LaJarvia Brown of the Alton Redbirds gave it her all in the midst of difficult circumstances Monday.
The peppy 5-foot-1 junior guard scored 23 points in the Birds’ opener, but they bowed to Cahokia, 39-38, during the opening night of the Alton Tip-Off Girls Basketball Classic.
“We played well as a team, but we didn’t come out with enough energy in the second half,” said Brown, the Class 3A IHSA track triple jump state champion. “We played hard. It just didn’t come out our way.”
Just playing the game proved to be an energetic exercise for Brown. Her mother, LaKiesha Dorsey, passed away last weekend and Brown had a heavy heart.
“It has been really hard for me,” Brown said. “But she would have wanted me to play and not miss school.”
AHS coach Bobby Rickman said, “LaJarvia played hard. I never question what she’s going to give because she gives everything she has.”
And Cahokia coach Fred Dancy added, “She’s a good player.”
Brown’s 16 first-half points enabled the Redbirds to surge ahead 24-15 by the break. They led 21-7 at one point as Cahokia made only three of its first 35 shots.
Yet the Comanches, who had 6-for-45 shooting in the half, made 7 of 14 shots in the third quarter. They led 30-29 going into the fourth quarter.
“We came out flat in the third quarter and Cahokia got on a roll,” Rickman said. “Our defensive intensity wasn’t where we needed it to be in the third quarter.”
Dancy sensed the momentum shifting Cahokia’s way. “We went to a box-and-1 defense on Brown to take her out of her comfort zone and that helped us. We wanted to wear her out and push her more.”
It was still anybody’s game going into the final minute. Cahokia led 37-36 and then got a key basket from J’Ava Brown off a steal with 58 seconds to go. Megan Paulda of the Redbirds countered with a pair of free throws 29 seconds later.
However, Alton couldn’t score again and Cahokia escaped with the victory.
“It was our first game and we were nervous,” Dancy said. “We have a lot to work on, but our chemistry is good.”
Rickman said, “Cahokia played hard and didn’t give up.”
The Redbirds have things to sharpen before playing again at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Breese Mater Dei, the 2013 tourney runner-up. No games are scheduled tonight. Jersey, which dropped its opener, 59-54, to Springfield Lanphier on Monday, takes on Cahokia at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Then Mater Dei clashes with Calhoun at 7:30 p.m. that night.
“We have to figure out the combinations of who can contribute the most,” Rickman said. Jewel Wagner (six points) and Megan Paulda (five points) followed Brown as the Birds’ leading scorers. The Redbirds made 18 of 23 free throws, with Brown converting 11 of 14 fouls shots. Paulda was 5 of 6 from the line.
Raynesha Lewis, a 6-1 junior guard, led Cahokia with 12 points. Dominique Jennings, a 6-foot senior center, punched in 11 points before she fouled out with 30 seconds to play.
Senior Lia Roundcount (23 points) and sophomore Mackenzie Thurston (19 points) paced Jersey against Lanphier. The Lions, overturning a 28-27 halftime deficit, leaned on Maria Cline for 15 points to spoil the debut of first-year Jersey coach Kevin Strebel.
“Mackenzie and Lia are star-type athletes that can jump and are aggressive,” Strebel said. “They have the desire to get to the rim
“I’m certainly optimistic about this season.”
So is Roundcount, a 6-foot senior who has played for three head coaches in three seasons. “I think we will do better than we did last year,” she said.
ALTON TIP-OFF CLASSIC
CAHOKIA 39, ALTON 38
Cahokia 5 10 15 9 – 39
Alton 13 11 5 9 –38
Cahokia (1-0) – Toller 1, Jennings 11, Lewis 12, Bursey 4, Ja. Brown 5, Jac. Brown 4, Thatcher 2. 2FG-15 3FG-2 FT-3 PF-21
Alton (0-1) – Paulda 5, Brown 23, Wagner 6, Mitchell 2, Miller 2. 2FG-10 FT-18 PF-23