TROY — The Granite City Warriors will not celebrate another Triad Mid-Winter Basketball Classic championship this year.
The Warriors finished last in their pool with an 0-2 mark after losing 59-43 to the Highland Bulldogs on Friday. Granite City began its tournament play on Tuesday with a 71-45 loss to Riverview Gardens.
Now, the Warriors are hoping to avoid a winless record in the six-team tournament.
Granite City will play the Gateway STEM Jaguars in the fifth-place game at 4 p.m. Saturday. Gateway is 0-2 in the tournament after losses to Triad and Marion.
“It would be nice if we could find a way to win tomorrow and maybe get a win before we go against Alton next Friday,” Granite City coach Steve Roustio said.
The Warriors dropped their season-high fifth straight game with Friday’s loss and will take an 8-10 record into Saturday’s fifth-place game. Granite City has not won a game since pulling off a 48-46 victory over Collinsville on Jan. 5.
“It’s frustrating right now,” Roustio said. “Losing Kenny (Berry) must have been a bigger hurdle for these kids than I could ever imagine. I knew he would be a big loss, but I didn’t know that his absence would create this type of mental struggle. So we got to figure out a way to get it back together.”
Roustio said his team is struggling on defense. The Warriors have allowed an average of 67 points per game during their five-game losing streak and lost in double digits in four of those games.
“There’s no help,” Roustio said. “We give up layups. When you give up open 3s and layups, that just basically says that you’re not playing hard. So it doesn’t matter what defense you’re in. Our effort is horrible right now. The good news about that is it’s a fixable thing if they decide to play hard.”
Senior Kenny Berry returned on Friday after missing three games due to a knee injury. Two weeks ago, he injured his right knee against East St. Louis.Berry, who was wearing a knee brace, finished with 12 points, six in each half.
“He’s not 100 percent,” Roustio said. “He looked pretty good tonight for his first game back. He’s a little rusty, but he’s not crazy. He played a heck of a lot harder than I thought. I thought he would be tired and fatigued and he wasn’t.”
Senior Tra’ Allen led the Warriors with 17 points, including 13 in the second half. He was 9 for 11 from the free-throw line.
Granite City started playing in the Triad tournament in 2014. The Warriors lost all three games that season. The next year, the Warriors finished 3-0 in the Triad tournament, including a 56-50 win over Highland in the championship game.
Granite City’s chances of winning a second straight title faded with Tuesday’s loss with Riverview Gardens. The Rams beat Highland the next night to advance to Saturday’s championship game against the Triad Knights.
The Bulldogs never trailed in Friday’s contest with the Warriors. They led 16-4 with six minutes left in the second quarter. Highland, which will play Marion in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
“When they put the ball on the floor, they get to the basket and the other four guys are looking to get open,” Roustio said. “They’re constantly doing things with a purpose. They can get to the basket and they can shoot. They play hard and they play together and they guard you. Highland guarded us.”
Austin Elledge scored 13 points and Brode Portell and Will Michael each had 12 for Highland, which improved to 10-9.