GODFREY — The Alton Redbirds had no answer for the inside presence of the Jacksonville Crimsons Saturday in the Alton Tip-Off Classic title tilt.
The Birds struggled against the Crimsons with foul trouble, rebounding and scoring, ultimately losing 63-41. The loss dropped the Birds to 2-1 on the season, while Jacksonville elevated to 3-0.
“We had no energy. I don't know,” said befuddled Alton head coach Eric Smith after the game.
The Crimsons saw four players reach double figures, led by a pair of 6-foot-7 players in Tyler Rose and Brandon McCombs with 18 apiece. Tournament MVP Brady Hays poured in 15, while James White chipped in with 10.
Second-year Jacksonville head coach Sean Taylor thought the size was extremely advantageous for his team Saturday. Adding Rose, who transferred in for his senior season from Southwestern, has been a big boost for '15-16, too.
“I think the key whenever you have a size advantage is you have to be able to get the ball into them and I thought our guards did a really good job distributing the ball and working toward the basket where our bigs were,” Taylor said. “I thought that was key because sometimes like last night we just played toward half court and didn't look to get it to the post.”
Smith just thought the outcome was effort based.
“They were able to do what they wanted to do because they work hard and we just gave in,” he said. “They did what they wanted to do and we let them and played catch up. For the first time in four years I think our kids just gave up.”
Foul trouble didn't help the Redbirds, as Maurice Edwards and Kevin Caldwell, Jr. both found themselves on the bench for much of the second quarter with two fouls. Edwards finished with a team-high 15 points, but ultimately fouled out with 1:21 remaining in the game.
But Smith wouldn't use the foul woes as an excuse.
“We've always been in foul trouble,” Smith said. “That's what we're going to do. We're going to get up and challenge people and we're going to pick up fouls that way. I don't think we've ever been in a game where we haven't been in foul trouble. That's not that big of a deal.”
Taylor thought it was a big deal to get Edwards off the court. Alton's leading scorer didn't even have a shot attempt in the second quarter.
“He's such a great athlete and a really, really good basketball so when you can get him with two fouls it forces him to back off a little bit, especially on defense and I think that was certainly a benefit for us,” Taylor said.
AHS charged out to a 5-1 lead and was in front 8-7 after an Edwards' 3-pointer with 2:21 to go in the first quarter before it began to unravel.
Hays knocked down a pair of treys in the frame and a pair of buckets in the paint by McCombs pushed the Crimsons ahead 11-8 at the close of the opening quarter.
Jacksonville extended its lead to 19-11 with 5:42 to go in the second quarter and took a 29-21 advantage into halftime.
A 3-pointer by White to start the third quarter propelled the Crimsons on top by double digits at 32-21, but then Birds finally started to find their groove. Caldwell netted a pair of baskets followed by two free throws and bucket by Edwards to spark an 8-0 spree and dwindle the deficit to 32-29.
But the Redbirds seemed to run out of gas from there. Rose snapped Alton's scoring streak with a basket in the paint and as the clock ran out on the third quarter Jacksonville was back in front 45-35.
The Crimsons went on to outscore AHS 18-6 in a very forgettable fourth quarter for the Birds.
Joining Edwards in the scoring for Alton Saturday were: Marcus Latham and Tre Smith with eight points apiece, Caldwell with five, Damion Reed with three and Morris Adams with two.
Edwards and Latham both earned first-team all-tournament honors, while Caldwell was on the second team. Rose and McCombs also made the first team, along with Chatham Glenwood's Ethan Hunt.
Joining Caldwell on the second team were: Northwest Academy's Wilshon Warren, Charles James and Maurice Golden, as well as Parker Allen of Glenwood.
Next up for the Redbirds is the start of the Southwestern Conference with East St. Louis on Friday, Dec. 4. Smith doesn't know what to expect from his squad. He thinks they've been pretty inconsistent to this point.
“This is not a fun roller coaster to be on right now,” Smith said. “(East St. Louis) is them on steroids. They've got good size and that good size is really, really athletic. If we come out with this approach we're going to get murdered and there is nothing we're going to be able to do about it if we don't have anymore energy or fight than we did tonight.
“We've got senior leaders and supposedly this is their time, so we'll find out if they want to be leaders or they're just content.”
ALTON TIP-OFF CLASSIC
JACKSONVILLE 63, ALTON 41
Crimsons 11 18 16 18 — 63
Redbirds 8 13 14 6 — 41
ALTON (2-1) — Marcus Latham 8, Tre Smith 8, Kevin Cladwell, Jr. 5, Maurice Edwards 15, Damion Reed 3, Morris Adams 2.
JACKSONVILLE (3-0) — James White 10, Brady Hays 15, Brandon McCombs 18, Joe Brannan 2, Tyler Rose 18.