GODFREY — The streak is over.
For the first time in five seasons, the Granite City Warriors celebrated a win over the Alton Redbirds. Granite City improved to 10-10 overall and 4-4 in Southwestern Conference play with a 72-69 over Alton, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Redbirds.
“It was tough,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “They played well. They obviously deserved to win tonight.”
The Warriors also won their second game in a row on Friday. They beat Gateway STEM 87-38 in the fifth-place game of the Triad Mid-Winter Classic on Saturday.
“That was good,” Granite City coach Steve Roustio said. “What even makes it sweeter is the fact that our week of practice was pretty phenomenal. After the Gateway win on Saturday, we took a day off and Monday through Thursday, we got some things done at practice. Not just Xs and Os, but we were doing some things to get mentally tougher and get ready for the second time through the conference.”
Granite City finished with the split with Alton in the two-game regular season series. The Redbirds beat the Warriors 65-59 in the last meeting on Dec. 11 at Memorial Gymnasium.
“This past week, we practiced really hard,” Granite City senior Kenny Berry said. “We ran and we did everything and shut our JV down. That’s all we have to do to keep winning.”
Berry finished with 27 points, including 16 in the first half, to lead the Warriors. He was 15 for 19 from the free-throw line.
Berry returned to the team last week after missing four games due to a knee injury he suffered against East St. Louis on Jan. 8.
“I liked the way that he has come back and everybody else kind of feeding off the fact that he’s back,” Roustio said. “There’s no doubt about it. We missed him huge.”
Also for Granite City, senior Tra’ Allen scored 23 points and finished 10 for 13 from the charity stripe.
The Warriors have seven regular season games remaining, including a non-conference game against the Waterloo Bulldogs on Tuesday at Memorial Gymnasium.
Alton dropped to 9-7 overall and 5-3 in conference play. The Redbirds also have seven regular season games remaining, including a road game with Galesburg on Saturday.
“We just got to find a way to play better,” Smith said.
In the last meeting on Dec. 11 the Redbirds went on a 9-1 run early in the fourth quarter en route to a 65-59 win over the Warriors.
On Friday, the Warriors stormed to a 10-1 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter and never looked back. Granite City led 30-14 at halftime and 47-31 after the third quarter.
“They were more aggressive,” Smith said. “They kind of beat us up on the glass. Their zone did a nice job of keeping us out of the paint.”
The Redbirds rallied to cut the Warriors’ lead to 70-69 after senior Marcus Latham hit a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left in the game. After Berry hit two free throws, Alton had a chance to tie the game. But junior Ty’ohn Trimble — who finished with 11 points — missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
“They turned it up on us,” Berry said. “We got rattled for a little bit, but we brought it together when it counted. A lot of our legs were shot for putting so much effort in, but we kept fighting until the end and that’s how we got the win.”
Latham finished with 25 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter. He finished with three 3-pointers.
“He’s that kind of player,” Roustio said. “He did that to us before. He had two 3s in the fourth quarter the last time we played them. Both of those 3s ended up giving them the win.”
The Warriors’ last victory against Alton was on Dec. 11, 2011, when they beat the Redbirds 54-53 on the road. Berry said he was thrilled that his team ended a long losing streak to Alton.
“I’m glad we came together as a team and came back with a bang and got the win,” the Granite City senior said.