GODFREY — The Alton Redbirds can file their girls’ basketball season opener Monday in the one-that-got-away folder.
They missed an opportunity to upend visiting Breese Mater Dei and suffered a 40-28 setback in a Pool B game of the AHS Tip-Off Classic. Jersey defeated Cahokia, 43-30, in Pool A competition.
“We let a game slip away that we shouldn’t have tonight,” Redbirds’ coach Bob Rickman said afterward. “Our biggest problem was the preparation for this game. We have to come into the game better prepared.”
Mater Dei led 21-20 at half before Alton forged ahead 24-21 on Kenya Burnett’s basket with 4:17 to play in the third quarter. The Knights went more than five minutes without a point. Then the Redbirds went stone-cold.
They scored one basket — a breakaway layup by senior LaJarvia Brown — in the next 10 minutes, 48 seconds. The Knights secured a 36-26 advantage with two minutes remaining and never looked back in their debut.
“We kind of got out of our rhythm early in the game,” Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen said. “Alton had something to do with that with their defense and quickness.
“We were struggling.”
Kohnen added, “Then we made a couple of layups and got our offense going. We also made some adjustments on defense.”
The Knights contained Brown and 5-2 junior teammate Ayonna Clanton in the second half. Brown scored 10 of her team-best 10 points in the first half and Clanton netted eight of her 10 points before the break. Clanton hit for a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter.
In the second half, the Redbirds tallied just eight points on 4-for-18 shooting. Overall, they made 11 of 43 shots, only 26 percent. Aside from Brown and Clanton, the remainder of the Redbirds totaled six points.
“We were getting too tired in the second half because of our lack of depth,” Rickman said. “Our legs were gone in the second. We couldn’t shoot. We were settling for just jump shots and we can’t do that.”
He noted, “I thought we did a good job defensively, though we put them at the free throw line too much.”
Kelsie Gerdes, a 5-6 junior guard, spurred the Knights the second half. She scored 10 of her game-best 16 points, including six in Mater Dei’s 12-point fourth quarter. She made four free throws to put the finishing touches on the Knights’ win.
“She has to be the leader of this team because the point guard has to take control of things,” Kohnen said.
No tournament games are scheduled Tuesday night. Mater Dei meets Springfield Lanphier at 6 p.m. Wednesday and defending tourney champ Calhoun clashes with rival Jersey at 7:30 p.m.
Alton, meanwhile, is idle and the extra time will give the Redbirds a chance to prepare for their next game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Lanphier. The six-team, round-robin tournament concludes Saturday.
“What has to change is our preparation,” Rickman said. “If you don’t prepare enough, it’s difficult to get better. We have to work hard every day.”
Rickman is convinced the Redbirds will improve and find their groove.
“We have gotten better and the talent is there,” he said. “I think the seniors and juniors will give us the leadership we need and the sophomores and freshmen will respond to it.”
ALTON TIP-OFF CLASSIC
BREESE MATER DEI 40, ALTON 28
Mater Dei 13 8 7 12 — 40
Alton 8 12 4 4 — 28
Mater Dei (1-0) — Jenna Toennies 4, Margo Lampe 2, Logan Braundmeier 6, Kelsie Gerdes 16, Aften Richter 2, Myah Beckmann 10. 2FG-13 3FG-0 FT-14 PF-7
Alton (0-1) — LaJarvia Brown 12, Jewel Wagner 2, Ayonna Clanton 10, Kenya Burnett 2, Cri’Shonna Hickman 2. 2FG-9 3FG2 FT-4 PF-18