CENTRALIA – The rematch evolved into a rerun that the Alton’s Redbirds aimed to avoid repeating.
Yet they couldn't sidestep it Wednesday night in the championship game of the 72nd annual Centralia Holiday Basketball Tournament. The host Orphans clipped them, 45-33, in the finals to successfully defend their tourney title. Alton bowed to Centralia, 62-54, in the 2013 finale.
New year, same result.
“It’s disappointing,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “Centralia took it to us and kicked our butt. They out-toughed us.”
While the Redbirds dropped to 11-2, the Orphans improved to 12-2 and claimed their 13th tournament title. Centralia’s defense limited Alton to its lowest point output of the season. The Redbirds averaged more than 79 points per game during their three tourney wins this week.
“We played tough defensively and followed our scouting report,” said Centralia coach Lee Bennett, the AHS head coach from 2003-07. “Alton is a very talented team and we didn’t flip it against their defense. We took care of the ball. They also didn’t get many transition baskets.”
The Redbirds didn’t get many baskets. Period. Just four players scored. The Birds made only 13 of 42 shots, or 31 percent. Alton connected on just 1 of 8 shots from 3-point range and got outrebounded 29-19. Centralia made 18 of 35 shots, including 4 of 10 treys.
First-team all-tournament selection Darrius Edwards led the way with 11 points. Carlos Anderson contributed eight points and five rebounds, Bryan Hudson had eight points and six rebounds. Hudson joined Edwards on the first team. Anderson was a second-team choice.
Centralia’s Ryan Obermeier, the tourney MVP, scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Teammate Tyrig Billberry had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“Obie had a special week,” Bennett said of Obermeier, a 6-foot senior guard. “It has been hard for us as a team to make points, but we’ve been guarding well.”
And the Orphans’ defense stifled the Redbirds, who trailed 18-15 at half. Centralia pushed its lead to 34-23 early in the fourth quarter before Alton closed to 37-31 with 3:20 remaining. A pair of Hudson baskets got the Redbirds within striking distance of the Orphans.
However, Centralia scored the next six points and the Redbirds were frustrated with their finish. The deliberate Orphans controlled the tempo most of the way in slowing down the Birds.
“We’ve faced teams like Jacksonville Chatham Glenwood that play that style and been successful against them,” Smith said, pointing to early-season wins. “But we couldn’t do that tonight.”
It seemed as if the Orphans were in the right place at the right time throughout the game. The Redbirds couldn’t match that intensity and resourcefulness.
“They (Orphans) got three offensive rebounds off free throws,” Smith said, pointing to Centralia’s forceful ways. “That was the picture of the night.”
He added, “We couldn’t get a loose ball or a rebound when we needed to have one. It just didn’t happen. We were a step behind them all night.”
Bennett thus secured his third Centralia championship, including one for Alton in 2006. “This is a long week and I didn’t get much sleep,” a drained Bennett said afterward.
The Redbirds likely didn’t sleep well after the long ride home. They resume Southwestern Conference competition next week when they play Tuesday at Belleville East and welcome Belleville West on Friday, Jan. 9. Alton is 3-1 in the SWC
“We need to find a way to have our best players play well in our biggest games,” said Smith, looking ahead to the second half of the season.
O’Fallon defeated Champaign Central, 63-50, for third place, Chicago Bogan pounded Belleville West, 81-44, for fifth and Arlington, Tenn., beat Jacksonville, 71-50, in the consolation championship. O’Fallon’s Donovan Franklin and Arlington’s Adarius Avery joined Hudson, Edwards and Obermeier on the all-tourney first team.
CERNTRALIA HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
CENTRALIA 45, ALTON 33
Alton 8 7 8 10 –33
Centralia 13 5 14 13 – 45
Alton (11-2) – Darrius Edwards 11, Carlos Anderson 8, Bryan Hudson 8, Maurice Edwards 6. 2FG-12 3FG-1 FT-6 PF-17
Centralia (12-2) – Ryan Obermeier 16, Tyrig Billberry 10, Dawson Berry 8, Lundyn Waithe 5, D’Aaron Owens 4, Deven Toennies 2. 2FG-14 3FG-4 FT-5 PF-10