O’FALLON –Take it from Alton High girls’ basketball coach Bobby Rickman. The Redbirds did some good things Tuesday against O’Fallon at the Panther Dome.
They just didn’t do enough of them.
O’Fallon scrambled to outscore Alton, 68-63 in a freewheeling Southwestern Conference contest. The Panthers improved to 9-10 overall and 6-4 in the league. The Redbirds, who welcome St. Louis power Incarnate Word on Thursday, dropped to 5-15 and 3-8.
“We have to take what we did from this game and build on it,” Rickman said of the positive signs.
He was encouraged by an offense that produced its highest point output of the season. LaJarvia Brown, a 5-foot-3 junior guard, led the way with 21 points. She hit 8 of 12 shots, including a trio of treys. Megan Paulda added 10 points, including a pair of treys. Jewel Wagner had seven points before she fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
“LaJarvia is so good,” O’Fallon coach Ryan Massey said. “We knew what she was capable of tonight and she put on a show tonight.”
Rickman added, “LaJarvia shot well tonight and she was effective with her mid-range shot. But LaJarvia has been doing that all season. She’s shooting in the 50 percent range and closing in on 1,000 career points.”
However, Marta Durk and Celeste Akoro, a pair of O’Fallon sophomores, stole the show. Akoro, a 6-2 center, made 12 of 14 field-goal tries and tallied a game-high 27 points. Durk, a 5-8 guard, contributed 26 points.
So those pair of Panthers accounted for all but 15 of O’Fallon’s points.
“We have some talented underclassmen,” Massey said, pointing to the future. “And that was one of Celetse’s highest scoring games of the season. We were able to get the ball to her.”
The Panthers did what about whatever they wanted on offense. O’Fallon connected on 27 of 42 shots, a blistering 64 percent. Alton sank 24 of 46 shots, or 54 percent.
“I was very impressed with the way they (Redbirds) shot the ball,” Massey said.
Rickman wishes he could say the same thing about the Redbirds’ defense. But it proved leaky, particularly after Alton forged in front 34-29 midway through the third quarter. The Redbirds led 26-25.
O’Fallon got its groove going late in the third quarter, mainly when Wagner, a 5-11 junior and Alton’s main inside defender, got into foul trouble. The Panthers, trailing by five points, went on a 15-3 binge to snare a 45-37 advantage.
“We have to play better post defense,” Rickman said. “It was disappointing because we got the lead and then we let it slip away.”
The Birds got to within five points twice late in the game, but could get no closer. Akoro and Durk both scored 17 of their points in the second half. Teammate Becca Althoff pitched in nine of her 10 points after the break. Those three Panthers thus accounted for 42 of the team’s 43 second-half points.
“We can’t let Akoro get the ball like she did,” Rickman said. “I thought we had a good second quarter defensively, but not after that. Our defense has to be better.”
Rickman said, “We have to create more turnovers. It’s hard to stop a team like that when they have two players (Akoro and Durk) that played that well.”
AHS still has conference dates remaining with Collinsville, Belleville West and league-leading Edwardsville. Then the Redbirds will play host to a five-team Class 4A regional that includes Pekin, Quincy, Granite City and Edwardsville.
O’FALLON 68, ALTON 63
Alton 13 13 11 26 – 63
O’Fallon 17 8 20 23 – 68
Alton (5-15, 3-8) – LaJarvia Brown 21, Chayvon Buckingham 2, Megan Paulda 10, Jewel Wagner 7, Cheriena Mitchell 5, Kenya Burnett 5, Ayonna Clanton 6, Destanee Dale 2, Konnie Miller 5. 2FG-17 3FG-7 FT-8 PF-19
O’Fallon (9-10, 6-4) – Marta Durk 26, Becca Althoff 10, Celeste Akoro 27, Dominique Watson-Blake 2, Tori Weiss 3. 2FG-25 3FG-2 FT-12 PF-13