GODFREY — They sizzled, smoked and sparkled. The Alton Redbirds scorched visiting O’Fallon, 73-58, Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference basketball game and remained unbeaten in the Southwestern Conference.
The Redbirds, benefiting from a blazing start, improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SWC. O’Fallon dropped to 1-5 and 0-2. Alton made 20 of its first 31 shots, including 7 treys, to build an insurmountable 50-25 halftime lead.
“I think we are capable of shooting like that all the time,” said AHS senior Marcus Latham, leader of the fiery getaway. “We have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball well. If we keep sharing the ball, we can knock down our shots.”
Latham poured in a game-best 22 points, thanks to 19 points in the first half. He made five treys before the break, including four in the first quarter when the Redbirds shot in front 22-5.
“My teammates were doing a good job of finding me when I was open,” said Latham, 8-for-11 from the field. “I missed my first shot, but I kept shooting and the shots started dropping. I was in a good rhythm.”
Alton coach Eric Smith added, “Marcus got open in certain spots and we had our transition game going. We are capable of shooting like that and everything sure looks different when you are making a bunch of shots.”
Five first-quarter treys set the tone for Alton’s burning beginning.
“We talked to the kids and told them how important it was to come out and play with a lot of energy. We did that, and punched and staggered them,” Smith said of the Panthers.
The Panthers’ seemed stunned by the Redbirds’ ability to make shot after shot.
“We left guys open early in the game and we didn’t come out with any intensity,” O’Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. “Latham was open and he hit his shots.
“We played harder at the end of the game, but it seemed like the effort wasn’t there for us most of the first half.”
Latham, a 6-foot-1 lefty, wasn’t the only Redbird sinking shots. Tre Smith, a 6-1 senior and grandson of former AHS standout John “Main” Smith, punched in a career-high 15 points. He made 6 of 9 shots, including a 3-pointer.
“Coach told me to do my part and I was running the floor and posting up for my shots,” Smith said.
He said grandpa John also had some words of advice for him.
“He said to be aggressive, but to play under control and take care of the ball,” Tre Smith said.
Maurice Edwards (nine points), Kevin Caldwell Jr. (eight points), Jordan Golley (six points) and Dereaun Clay (six points) also contributed enough to the cause. All figured, nine players scored. Overall, the Redbirds made 29 of 51 shots, or a torrid 57 percent.
“Coach was really emphasizing sharing the ball and that’s what we did,” Latham said. “I think our win last Friday at East St. Louis was a big confidence booster.”
Gibson said the Redbirds impressed him. Alton stretched its lead to 59-29 late in the third quarter before settling for a 15-point victory.
“They are a good team, they play hard and they put a lot of pressure on you,” Gibson said.
Chance Armstrong’s 14 points paced the Panthers. He scored 11 of them in O’Fallon’s 19-point fourth quarter. Tabari Dunlap and Alex Orr both pitched in 10 points.
The Redbirds resume SWC competition Friday at much-improved Granite City, also 2-0 in the SWC. On Dec. 18, they will play host to Collinsville. The Centralia Holiday Tournament runs Dec. 28-30.
“It should be a good game Friday,” Tre Smith said of the early-season showdown with the 5-1 Warriors, riding a four-game winning streak. “I can’t wait.”
Coach Smith noted, “Granite City has a lot of experience and (Kenny) Berry is a good player."
ALTON 73, O’FALLON 58
O’Fallon 5 20 14 19 — 58
Alton 22 28 10 13 — 73
O’Fallon (1-5, 0-2) — Chance Armstrong 14, Tabari Dunlap 10, Ryan Fulton 4, Jalen Hodge 6, Alex Orr 10, Chris Eichholz 2, Deion Norfleet 6, Lucas Hackmann 5. 2FG-20 3FG-2 FT-12 PF-12
Alton (4-1, 2-0) — Maurice Edwards 9, Kevin Caldwell Jr. 8, Marcus Latham 22, Jordan Golley 6, Tre Smith 15,Dereaun Clay 6, Damion Reed 2, Ty’ohn Trimble 2 Rashad Williams 3. 2FG-21 3FG-8 FT-7 PF-22