GODFREY – What seemed to be a sound start for the Alton High girls’ basketball team turned shaky in the second quarter Wednesday.
And it remained relatively unsteady the rest of the way.
The Redbirds lost to Pekin, 59-38, in a semifinal game of the Class 4A Alton Girls’ Basketball Regional and ended their season at 5-22. Second-seeded Pekin, enjoying its best season in school history, improved to 18-10 and will play 27-0 Edwardsville at 7 p.m. Friday for the regional title.
“It’s disappointing to me that we didn’t compete better than that,” AHS coach Bobby Rickman said of the Redbirds’ season. “We’re not a five-win team. That’s not acceptable. Even though we lost Jordann Wilson (injury) and Jasmine Bishop (transfer), we have more talent than that.
“Things have to be different next year.”
Alton attempted to make a difference early on against Pekin. The third-seeded Redbirds led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter and 17-12 early in the second quarter.
Then disaster struck. Pekin went on a 16-0 spree and eventually shot ahead 31-21 by halftime. The Redbirds never recovered.
“That has been the story for us all season long,” Rickman said. “We let a 2-to-4-to-6 point run get to a 12-to-14-to-16 point run. You can’t win a game when you give up a big run like that.”
Pekin coach Becky Fulkerson said the Dragons began to find their shooting skills and play better defense. They made 8 of 13 shots in a 19-point second quarter and 8 of 11 field-goal tries in a 20-point third quarter. The visitors led 51-29 after three quarters.
“It was a matter of figuring out how to defend Alton and also shooting better,” Fulkerson said. “We weren’t shooting with a rhythm early on and once we made some adjustments, we shot better.”
Alexus Mercer, a 5-foot-10 junior, scored 20 points to lead the Dragons. Freshman Madi Cash (13 points), sophomore Sydney Diekhoff (13 points) and 5-10 Jesse Ulrich (11 points) contributed to the cause. Ulrich is Pekin’s lone senior.
Juniors LaJarvia Brown (16 points) and Jewel Wagner (11 points) led Alton, which made 15 of 40 shots, but just 7 of 13 free throws. Pekin made 21 of 47 shots, including six treys.
“When we got down, we stayed down,” Rickman said.
He intends to roll up his sleeves and go to work on next season as soon as possible. Rickman said there’s plenty of tinkering ahead.
“We’ll basically start from scratch next year,” he said. “Nobody will be guaranteed anything and players will have to earn their playing time. It should be more competitive and we will have a different atmosphere. It starts with the off-season and we have some good, young players coming along. The players need to put in the effort and make a commitment themselves.”
Pekin, meanwhile, will get ready to challenge Edwardsville for regional honors.
“We’re glad to have a day off to prepare for them,” Fulkerson said. “We’re both 1-0 in the postseason and it’s one game at a time at this point.”
CLASS 4A ALTON REGIONAL
PEKIN 59, ALTON 39
Alton 15 6 8 9 – 38
Pekin 12 19 20 8 -- 59
Alton (5-22) – LaJarvia Brown 16, Konnie Miller 2, Jewel Wagner 11, Cheriena Mitchell 5, Kenya Burnett 4. 2FG-14 3FG-1 FT-7 PF-13
Pekin (18-10) – Jesse Ulrich 11, Alexus Mercer 20, Haylie Yeley 4, Sydney Diekhoff 11, Madi Cash 13. 2FG-15 3FG-6 FT-11 Pf-13