COLLINSVILLE — The Granite City Warriors pulled off another first-round victory at the Prairie Farms Collinsville Holiday Classic.
The Warriors advanced to the quarterfinals of the 16-team tournament by beating the Hazelwood East Spartans 66-58 in a first-round game on Monday night. It’s the second year in a row Granite City won a first-round game in the Collinsville tournament.
“I give my guys a lot of credit,” Granite City coach Steve Roustio said. “That wasn’t one of our better games, but we did what we had to do to win.”
Now, the Warriors are looking to pull off another upset in the Collinsville tournament. They’re playing top-seeded Althoff at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the quarterfinals. Althoff cruised to a 97-56 win over Urbana in a first-round game on Monday.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Granite City senior Kenny Berry said. “We just have to play hard defense and make sure we box them out. Our offense will come, but we’re going to win the game with defense.”
Last year, the Warriors beat fourth-seeded Decatur McArthur in the first round and went on to finish sixth.
The Crusaders will take an 8-1 record and a seven-game winning streak into their game with the Warriors.
“Althoff’s press manufactures points,” Roustio said. “It’s crazy. They get steals and the next thing you know they’re dunking. We’ve got to be strong and take care of the ball tomorrow.”
The winner of the Granite City-Althoff game advance to the semifinals against either Collinsville or fourth-seeded Quincy at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Warriors are looking to play in the Collinsville tournament semifinals for the first time since 2011.
The Warriors improved to 6-3 with the win over Hazelwood East. They snapped a two-game losing streak.
“Hazelwood East has a lot of weapons,” Berry said. “I’m just happy to come out with a win. We just have to keep playing hard on defense. That’s the key.”
For the Warriors, Berry scored 20 points in the second half and finished with a game-high 28. Senior Tra’ Allen had 19 points and 10 rebounds and senior Ron Allen had 9 points.
With the game tied at 15-15, Berry gave the Warriors the lead for good with a free throw with 3:47 left in the second quarter. It started a 13-4 run for Granite City. The Warriors led 28-19 at halftime and never looked back.
“To come into the locker room where we were up 28-19, that was good, especially when our third quarter wasn’t good,” Roustio said. “We can’t play so lackadaisical. We just like floating around. Every possession has to be intense, especially on defense. I thought our defense was good for a half, then it kind of got sloppy again.”
Berry went 12 for 14 and Tra’ Allen was 11 for 16 from the free-throw line.
The Warriors and Spartans played the final first-round game of the tournament on Monday. It started at 9:42 p.m.
Roustio said his team had been preparing for Monday’s game by having late night practices.
“On the 26th, we practiced from 6:30-8:30 p.m,” the Granite City coach said. “Yesterday, we started practice at 8 o’clock at night. We didn’t leave the small gym until 9:52 p.m. Here we are having to do some things to just get used to playing a competitive game against another school by practicing late at night and that’s out of the ordinary because when we’re not at school, normally we practice at 10:30 in the morning. If we’re in the school, we’re in the gym by 3:25 p.m. and we’re out of the gym by 5:25 p.m. Earlier in the season, we would go to 6 o’clock. The last couple of nights, we practiced late at night to get ready for this.”
Corey Shepherd finished with 25 points, James McKelvin had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Travon Manley had 15 points for the Spartans, who dropped to 4-3.
“That was the best team we beat all year, for sure,” Roustio said. “They’re unbelievable.”
Shepherd scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.
“They have a phenomenal player in Corey Shepherd,” Roustio said. “He’s legit. We couldn’t keep him from the rim. He can shoot the 3. He basically single-handily kept them in the game.”