The Alton Redbirds pose with their consolation championship trophy at the Belleville East Chick-Fil-A Tournament on Jan. 21.
Despite having two of their top scorers suffering injuries, the Alton Redbirds are enjoying another strong season this winter.
The Redbirds are 13-9 overall and 6-5 in Southwestern Conference play with three regular season games left. They’re a victory away from clinching their fourth straight winning season.
“We keep talking to the kids that if they’re competitive and play with some energy, they’re always going to have a chance,” Alton coach Eric Smith said.
Alton clinched at least a .500 season with a 58-49 victory over the Collinsville Kahoks on Feb. 10 at home. The win ended a four-game home losing streak.
“It’s a great win,” Alton senior Morris Adams said. “We’re glad to get this W for us and it’s a big one in our conference.”
Alton has never been under .500 all season. The Redbirds were 7-7 after losing to Althoff in the first round of the Belleville East Chick-Fil-A Classic before winning six of their next eight games.
The Redbirds will play a road game against the Edwardsville Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Friday, their final road contest of the season. Alton has a 5-2 record away from home.
“Edwardsville is a good team, but I think we can compete and we’ll definitely be ready for them,” Adams said.
Alton lost to the Tigers 59-48 in the last meeting on Jan. 24. Smith said his team has a simple goal against Edwardsville (22-1 overall, 9-1 in conference play) on Friday.
“Score more points,” the Alton coach said.
Also on Friday, the Redbirds will find out their postseason schedule. Class 4A postseason pairings will be announced on ihsa.org at 4 p.m. Friday.
Alton won regional championships and reached the sectional title game in each of the last two years.
“Playoffs are the most important thing,” Alton senior Maurice Edwards said. “We want to make sure we win the rest of these games and make it to the sectionals like we did last year.”
The Redbirds wrap up their regular season with back-to-back home games against Belleville West on Feb. 21 and O’Fallon on Feb. 24.
Edwards said he hopes the team wins its final three games of the season.
“It will be real nice,” he said. “We can’t let any of them slip away. We have to win all of them.”
Edwards and junior Kevin Caldwell Jr. are two of the Redbirds’ top scorers. Both are averaging 12 points per game.
But they both suffered injuries. Edwards missed eight games because of an ankle injury before returning Feb. 7 against Taylorville and Caldwell sat out last week’s game against Collinsville because of a concussion he suffered against Taylorville.
“Once everybody’s back, I feel like we can make a good run,” Edwards said.
Smith said he was thrilled that Edwards is back on the team. He scored 22 points against Collinsville.
“He’s fine,” he said. “He’s trying to get back into shape and trying to get comfortable again. The more he can be on the floor, the more he can help out.”
Alton began its season in November with a second-place finish in the Alton Tip-Off Classic. The Redbirds lost to St. Mary’s in the championship game.
Last month, Alton beat St. Mary’s 62-55 in the consolation championship game of the Belleville East Chick-Fil-A Tournament.
The Redbirds also had road victories over O’Fallon, Collinsville, Belleville East, Taylorville and Granite City. They also beat Granite City in the SWC at the E Shootout on Dec. 3 at SIUE and St. Charles East in the Galesburg Shootout on Jan. 28.
“I love playing with my brothers and everything,” Adams said. “It’s amazing how the year has gone. Losses are tough, but the wins are amazing.”
Caldwell scored the game-winning baskets in the Redbirds’ wins over O’Fallon and Belleville East. Against O’Fallon on Dec. 6, the junior scored the game-winning bucket with eight seconds left in the 55-54 victory. Two weeks later, Caldwell fired a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds to go to help the Redbirds come back from an 18-point deficit to beat East 66-63.
Edwards, Adams, Dereaun Clay, Ty’ohn Trimble, Tyler Springman, Evan Meyer and Damion Reid make up Alton’s senior class. They will play their final home game on Feb. 24 against O’Fallon.