GODFREY – The smallest school made the biggest impact in the Alton Girls Tip-Off Classic.
Calhoun High, featuring an enrollment of 171 students, swept to the AHS basketball title by defeating Breese Mater Dei, 52-45, Springfield Lanphier, 76-52, and the host Redbirds, 69-35. The Warriors walloped Alton on Saturday night to boost their overall record to 4-0.
“We knew that we would be a small fish in a big pond, so we rolled the dice playing here,” Calhoun coach Aaron Baalman said.
The Warriors rolled nothing but winning numbers. In Saturday’s finale, they led 33-17 by halftime and never looked back. Calhoun went on to outscore Alton 24-6 in the third quarter and turn it into a rout.
“They have size, they are aggressive and they are a good team,” Alton coach Bobby Rickman said of Calhoun. “They really have a good balance of players and they could be the best Class 1A team in the state.”
Mater Dei went 2-1 in the tournament to snare the runner-up role again. The Knights, second to Belleville West last year, downed Jersey, 35-18, in their final tourney game. The Panthers finished 0-3.
Cahokia posted a 2-1 record, as did Springfield Lanphier. The Comanches lost to the Lions, 42-38, on Saturday, yet they claimed third place via a point differential tie-breaker.
Tournament MVP Emma Baalman of Calhoun joined teammate Grace Baalman on the all-tourney first team. Grace, a 6-foot-2 sophomore center, proved unstoppable against the Redbirds. She scored 29 points and snagged 15 rebounds. Teammate Kassidy Klocke, a 6-0 junior, pitched in 17 points.
“Grace is a workhorse,” Aaron Baalman said. “People underestimate her strength. Kassidy is a heck of a player who can knock down some big shots.”
Baalman quipped, “And she’s a Klocke.”
LaJarvia Brown, a 5-1 junior guards, tried to spur the Redbirds against the taller Warriors. She scored a team-best 18 points and finished with 56 tourney points. Brown was named to the first-team, all-tourney, as was Jersey’s Lia Roundcount, Mater Dei’s Lauren Donnewald and Cahokia’s Dominique Jennings.
MacKenize Thurston of Jersey was chosen to the second team. So were Chloe Beckmann of Mater Dei, Raynesha Lewis of Cahokia, plus Keona Bolden and Jeniya Griffin of Springfield Lanphier.
Calhoun got the opportunity to play in this year's Alton tournament when Southwestern discontinued its round-robin affair. Coach Baalman thought the Redbirds' event would be a good test for the Warriors.
“We wanted to see some bigger schools and athletic teams. We have increased our strength of schedule this season, but we aren’t looking ahead," he said of postseason aspirations. "We are taking it one game at a time.”
The Redbirds are looking ahead to their next game – Dec. 2 at Belleville East. “It’s an adjustment and learning process for us,” Rickman said. Alton made only 15 of 65 shots against Calhoun.
First-year Jersey coach Kevin Strebel sees the Panthers putting together the building blocks for a competitive season.
“We’re trying to keep things simple, but we need to play with more confidence,” he said. “We also have to pay more attention to details.”
Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen, starting his 25th season, figures the Knights will continue to improve. “Our team has a lot of potential,” he said.
Follow Steve Porter on Twitter @StevePorter51.
ALTON TIP-OFF CLASSIC
CALHOUN 65, ALTON 39
Calhoun 15 18 23 13 – 69
Alton 8 9 6 12 – 35
Calhoun (4-0) – E. Baalman 7, Klocke 17, G. Baalman 29, White 8, Oswald 2, C. Holland 2, Hayn 2, J. Zirkelbach 2. 2FG-28 3FG-4 FT-1 PF-11
Alton (0-3) – Brown 18, Paulda 2, Miller 4, Wagner 6, Mitchell 3, Dale 2. 2FG-14 3FG-1 FT-4 PF-15