GODFREY – There’s usually little comfort in absorbing a defeat, but the Alton High girls’ basketball team gained some consolation Saturday.
The Redbirds pushed highly regarded Quincy Notre Dame to the max before bowing to the Raiders, 47-37, in nonconference action at AHS. Quincy ND, considered one of top Class 4A teams in the state, improved to 7-0. Alton suffered its sixth straight setback and dropped to 1-7.
Yet the Birds didn’t play like a skidding squad.
“It was our best or second-best performance of the year,” AHS coach Bob Rickman said. “I think it was a step in the right direction.
“I saw a lot of good things out there.”
Alton might have played better in its win over Springfield Lanphier at the Redbirds’ season-opening tournament. However, the Birds challenged the Raiders, who own a win over Class 1A state runner-up Calhoun.
“We found a way to get it done,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “It was kind of an ugly game. We had to grind through this game because we played our worst first half – by far – of the season. We had a 10-day layoff and that might have had something to do with it."
Doing their share of grinding, the Redbirds got to within 19-17 by the break. They led once – 17-16 – after Ayonna Clanton sank a pair of free throws with 1:18 remaining in the half.
Both teams had trouble making their shots, thought the Raiders boosted their lead to 29-21 after three quarter. Then LaJarvia Brown of Alton hit for back-to-back baskets to start the fourth quarter and the Redbirds were within striking distance at 29-25.
“Brown’s an outstanding player and we didn’t stop her, but I think we contained her,” Orne said.
Brown’s 14 points, including six in the fourth quarter, kept the Redbirds in the thick of things until the final four minutes. Quincy ND, getting some steals and points off its 2-2-1 press, used a 12-2 binge to build a 41-27 advantage and secure its victory.
“We got to the basket better and those steals helped us,” Orne said. “We weren’t hitting our shots. That’s why we need the press to be effective.”
Olivia Hyer scored 15 points and McKenzie Foley punched in 10 more for QND, which made 18 of 50 shots, and just 8 of 30 the first half. In addition, the Raiders were 11-for-24 from the free throw line.
Jewel Wagner and freshman Cri’Shonna Hickman both scored eight points for Alton, which couldn’t survive 26 turnovers, nine in the third quarter. The Redbirds made 13 of 38 shots and 11 of 18 free throws.
Curiously, neither team made a 3-pointer.
“I saw some encouraging signs, especially the way we played after Thursday’s game with Granite City,” Rickman said, referring to the 43-31 loss. “We made some good steps. Our defensive effort was good.”
He figured QND was of the toughest matchups on the Redbirds’ schedule.
“They are a really good team and very well-coached,” Rickman said. “They are the best team we have played to this point and I think they could compete in the Southwestern Conference.”
The Redbirds are idle until Thursday, when they welcome Collinsville in a SWC game. Alton is 0-4 in league play. Quincy Notre Dame returns to the Greater Alton area on Jan. 8 when the Raiders play at Civic Memorial.
Two years ago, QND defeated CM in the Class 3A Decatur Super-Sectional at Millkin University. Now, the Raiders are cast in the 4A Alton Sectional. They’ll play in a sub-sectional, most likely at Granite City, one of two regional sites. The other is at Belleville West.
QUINCY NOTRE DAME 47, ALTON 37
Quincy ND 10 9 10 18 – 47
Alton 6 11 4 16—37
QND (7-0) – Molly Penn 9, Olivia Hyer 15, McKenzie Foley 10, Shelby Connell 5, Sarah Arnold 2, Mackenzie Doane 4, Ericka Obert 2. 2FG-18 3FG-0 FT-11 PF-18
Alton (1-7) – LaJarvia Brown 14, Jewel Wagner 8, Ayonna Clanton 2, Kenya Burnett 5, Cri-Shonna Hickman 8. 2FG-13 3FG-0 FT-11 Pf-20