The Granite City Warriors were a forgettable 2-25 during the ‘13-14 boys’ basketball season. They exceeded that total in the first week of the ‘14-15 campaign.
So when head coach Steve Roustio talks about being hopeful and excited, it’s well warranted. The Warriors were sitting at 3-1 following the five-team Stovetop Stuffing Classic, which was completed on Nov. 29. GCHS ended up with the tournament title too, even though it was originally rewarded to Civic Memorial after a tough 49-48 setback to the Eagles in the finals.
After CM, Granite City and Taylorville all finished 3-1, it went to points allowed, where the Warriors and Eagles tied. Finally it went to free throw percentage for the tourney; GCHS shot 68 percent, while CM only shot 65 percent. The original thought was it went to head-to-head competition which would have favored the Eagles.
It was still a loss for the Warriors, though, and one Roustio thought his squad could learn from.
“You learn from losing,” Roustio said. “We can make a bad and make it good. I remember being 3-1, losing to Taylorville and turning around and beating O’Fallon (66-58 on Nov. 30, 2012) so it’s not like we can’t learn from it. We’ve got to keep our heads up.”
Roustio pointed to lack of defensive intensity as a culprit for the loss to CM, especially boxing out 6-foot-8 Central Missouri recruit Jakob Lowrance. Lowrance had 28 points in the win over the Warriors. Roustio used one of his Southwestern Conference rivals and their emphasis on defense as an example of the success defense can bring.
“We’ve got to fix our defense,” Roustio said. “Playing in the league we play in if you don’t play defense, you’re going to struggle. You look at a team like Edwardsville, why have they had success all these years? It’s because they guard. You can’t just play the game possession after possession, not get the proper drops; you can’t let people drive around you and create a situation where help has to come and they’re dumping off for a layup, or kicking it out for an open 3. You’ve got to play better fundamental defense and you’ve got to do things like box out every time. If we boxed out two out of three times we’d be in good shape. We’re not boxing out at all. That’s all correctable; we can correct that in practice.”
If the Warriors can get their defense figured out they should be in good shape because the offense is rolling. They averaged 60 points per game as a team in the Stovetop Stuffing Classic.
It helped junior Kenny Berry find his way onto the All-Tournament squad. Berry led Granite City, scoring 18.3 points per game in the tourney. Berry is their returning leading scorer from a year ago when he was thrown in the fire as a sophomore.
Senior D.J. Miller, who missed all of last year due to injury after starting as a sophomore, turned in 15.3 ppg. in the tournament also. That tandem will lead the way with a superb supporting cast with players like juniors Ron Allen (8.5 ppg.) and Tra’ron Allen (4.8 ppg.) and senior Jalan Banks (5.8 ppg.)
“Three hundred sixty-five days ago we got a last-second basket over Triad and we were 1-3 and then we only won one more game at the Schnucks Tournament all year,” Roustio said. “Look how far we’ve come in a year. We do a lot of shooting and I think that’s obvious because we’ve got some guys that can score now. Miller can step up and hit a shot, Banks can get hot, Berry can score and we’ve got other guys that can make open shots.”
GCHS welcomed O’Fallon to Memorial Gym last Friday to open Southwestern Conference action and traveled to Belleville West at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Warriors will head to Alton at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12.