ST. LOUIS — Alton's Redbirds misplaced their shooting touch for their game Saturday at CBC High School in the ninth annual Midwest Showdown Shootout.
Worse yet, AHS boys' basketball coach Eric Smith said, they forgot to bring along their sturdy work ethic badge that carried them to six wins in their first seven games.
Soldan of St. Louis defeated the erratic-shooting Redbirds, 68-51, in the opening game of the six-team event and retained its winning ways. The Tigers, members of the city’s Public High League won their sixth in succession and improved to 8-2. Alton saw its four-game winning streak vanish as the Redbirds dropped to 6-2.
The Birds, who used hot second-half shooting to beat Collinsville, 65-41, on Friday, connected on a season-low 17 of 60 shots, or 28 percent, against Soldan.
“Our shooting was a direct result of not playing with any intensity,” coach Smith said. “We were flat.
“And it’s not totally a surprise because it was what we looked like the first half Friday.”
He added, “The most disappointing part is that we’ve stressed that the way to be successful is to play harder than anybody else. When you get slapped in the face like this, it’s a good reminder what you need to do.”
The Redbirds led 12-10 after the first quarter, trailed 27-23 at half and 40-38 after three quarters. So the outcome remained in doubt going into the fourth quarter.
Soldan forged in front 46-40, then Kevin Caldwell Jr. of the Redbirds converted a 3-point play to cut the Tigers’ lead to 46-43 with 4:31 to go. After Maurice Edwards of the Redbirds fouled out moments later, Soldan picked up the pace.
The Tigers opened a 54-43 lead with 2:52 remaining and never looked back.
“When it got close in the fourth quarter, we told our guys that no way are we going to lose this game,” Tigers’ coach Darvin Whitley. “We were going to win the game.”
And win it, they did. Christian Simms, a 6-foot senior guard, spurred them. He scored a game-high 24 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Simms made all six of his foul shots in the last quarter as Soldan converted 13 of 15 free throws to stretch its lead in a 28-point period.
“What we like the most about Simms is his toughness,” Whitley said.
Kevin Caldwell Jr. and Tre Smith both scored 11 points, best for the Redbirds. Jordan Golley pitched in 10 points and Edwards added 10 points before he fouled out.
However, inconsistent shooting dogged the Redbirds. Caldwell made 3 of 19 shots. Edwards hit 3 of 12 and Marcus Latham, playing sparingly, sank 2 of 7 shots and scored 5 points. He netted 22 points less than 24 hours earlier against Collinsville.
“We scouted Alton and knew they are a very streaky team,” Whitley said. “Once they get going, they can get on a roll. So we wanted to make it uncomfortable for them to do that.”
Alton never found a comfort zone with its shooting. The Redbirds were 5-for-15 in the first quarter, 3-for-15 in the second, 5-for-15 in the third and 4-for-15 in the fourth. They did sink 13 of 18 free throws. Soldan made 25 of 57 shots and 15 of 24 free throws.
Next up for the Redbirds is the 73th annual Centralia Holiday Tournament. Alton, last year’s runner-up, faces Raleigh Egypt of Memphis, Tenn., in the opener at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 28. Thus the Birds figure to be staying in Centralia on Sunday, Dec. 27.
Following first-day action, the tourney continues Dec. 29 and concludes Dec. 30. Host Centralia is the two-time defending champion.
If the Redbirds win their first tourney game, they will tangle with the Cahokia-Arlington, Tenn., winner at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 29.
"There are some very good teams at Centralia," Smith said.
Once the Redbirds leave Centralia, they resume Southwestern Conference competition Jan. 5 at home with Belleville East. Alton and Edwardsville, both 4-0, share the league lead.
"We've held our serve in the conference," Smith said of the unblemished start. "I don't think what we've done in it is as much of a surprise to us as it is to everybody else."
MIDWEST SHOWDOWN SHOOTOUT
(At CBC High)
SOLDAN 68, ALTON 51
Alton 12 11 15 13 — 51
Soldan 10 17 13 28 — 68
Alton (6-2) – Kevin Caldwell Jr. 11, Maurice Edwards 10, Marcus Latham 5, Tre Smith 11, Jordan Golley 10, Ty’ohn Trimble 2, Dereaun Clay 2. 2FG-13 3FG-4 FT-13 PF-20
Soldan (7-2) –Rashaun Amos 13, Christian Simms 24, Courtney Barlow 10, Ronald Scott 7, Arnold Adams 2, Emmanuel Ross 4, Devin Smart 4, Maxwell Webber 4. 2FG-22 3FG-3 FT-15 PF-19