GODFREY — A promising start flipped upside down and turned to a frustrating finish for the Alton High girls’ basketball team Tuesday.
Belleville East overcame an early deficit and blew past the Redbirds, 64-34, in the Southwestern Conference opener for both teams. The Lancers improved to 4-2, while the Redbirds dropped to 1-3.
The Birds led 9-2 early on, but once the Lancers knotted things at 19-19, they took off and never trailed. Belleville East led 25-19 at half and shot in front 31-19 before Alton scored again. It turned into a 22-4 spree as the Lancers opened a 41-23 advantage and didn’t look back.
“It was one of those things where we had a lack of depth,” AHS coach Bob Rickman said. “We did so many things that killed us and it snowballed.”
He added, “They (Lancers) got us to play their style of basketball and we can’t play that way against them.
“We controlled the tempo early.”
Then the Redbirds lost it. Ayonna Clanton’s 3-point play helped them shoot ahead by seven points. Clanton, a 5-foot-2 junior guard, scored all of her five points in the first quarter.
LaJarvia Brown, a 5-3 senior guard bound for Texas A&M on a track scholarship, scored three of her team-best 15 points in the first quarter. She pitched in nine more points — all of the Redbirds’ scoring — in the second quarter. The Lancers limited her to three second-half points.
“She’s a great player and one of the best in the SWC,” Lancers’ second-year coach Amanda Kemezys said of Brown. “I thought Chermaine King did a good job of guarding her and wearing her down. Our whole team stepped it up on defense and our diamond press was pretty effective.”
She pointed out, “Our first half was a little disappointing, but Alton is tough and athletic. Once we settled in, we stepped up our play.”
Myriah Noodel-Haywood’s 14 points paced the winners. Belleville East simply overwhelmed Alton with sheer numbers. All figured, the Lancers had 10 players score and their reserves registered 31 points, 22 more points than the Redbirds’ subs. And aside from Brown, the Birds totaled just 19 points.
Overall, they made only 11 of 49 shots, including 1 of 19 in a 6-point fourth quarter. The Redbirds sank 11 of 23 free throws, 4 of 10 in the final quarter. East made 25 of 62 shots.
“They were tougher than us,” Rickman said of the Lancers. “We were soft.”
Alton hadn’t played in 10 days, since finishing 1-2 and fourth in the Redbirds’ Tip-Off Classic that ended Nov. 21.
“Right now, we are spending too much time on effort,” Rickman said. “We aren’t getting enough quality practices. Our practices aren’t good enough.”
Kemezys figures the Lancers can be a legitimate player in the eight-team SWC.
“I think the potential of this team is there, if we buy into a quality defensive effort every game. We locked down our half-court defense in the second half tonight.”
It’s back to SWC action Thursday for the Redbirds. They travel to East St. Louis. Alton goes to O’Fallon on Dec. 8, is at Granite City on Dec. 10 and plays host to Quincy Notre Dame at 4 p.m. on Dec. 12.
BELLEVILLE EAST 64, ALTON 34
East 9 16 22 15 — 64
Alton 10 9 9 6 — 34
Belleville East (4-2, 1-0) – Elisha Davis 5, Kaylah Rainey 6, Myriah Haywood 14, Jailyn McClenny 8, Tamar Mosby 6, Brittney Nitz 8, Morgan St. James 8, Chermaine King 2, Jalia Parker 5, Destiny Johnson 2. 2FG-22 3FG-3 FT-11 PF-23
Alton (1-3, 0-1) – LaJarvia Brown 15, Ayonna Clanton 5, Kenya Burnett 5, Chayvon Buckingham 2, Cri’Shonna Hickman 4, Leilani Hill 1, A’llurah Bowens 2. 2FG-10 3FG-1 FT-11 PF-15