GODFREY — Maurice Edwards will remember his first varsity start as a meaningful one for the Alton Redbirds.
The 6-foot sophomore guard scored 12 points Tuesday to help guide the Redbirds past Northwest Academy of St. Louis, 67-58, in the AHS Tip-Off Classic. Alton, 1-0, plays 1-1 Jacksonville at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night in the continuing basketball tournament. Northwest is 1-1. Jacksonville defeated Vashon of St. Louis, 53-33, in Tuesday’s first game.
“I wasn’t too nervous,” Edwards said of his debut as a starter. “I just wanted to play my role.”
He played it relatively well. Edwards made 6 of 8 shots and poured in eight third quarter points as the Redbirds began to pull away from the Hornets. They increased their narrow 37-34 halftime edge to 57-40 going into the fourth quarter.
“Maurice has an opportunity to be a good player,” Redbirds’ coach Eric Smith said. “He just needs to get more experience.”
Smith added, “Maurice played some point guard last year. He has the ability to do a lot of different things.”
Edwards spent most of his time playing underclass basketball as a freshman. However, with the graduation of starting guards De’Antae McMurray and Michael Williams-Bey, the Birds are searching for the right backcourt combo. Smith has Edwards poised at the point.
“I was more of a scorer last year,” Edwards said. “This year, it’s about getting the ball to my teammates.”
Teammate Carlos Anderson, a senior bound for SIUE, figures Edwards will get the job done.
“We have a lot of confidence in him. He’s a versatile player,” Anderson said. “He’s buying into his role on this team and as the year progresses, he will feel more comfortable in it.”
Anderson and 6-7 senior center Bryan Hudson both pitched in 10 points to complement Edwards’ production. All figured, 10 AHS players scored. The Birds made 28 of 59 shots, though they were a wobbly 6-for-18 from the foul line.
What saved them was their harassing defense. They forced 25 turnovers, including nine in the decisive third quarter.
“We did some decent things with our defense and got points off turnovers,” Smith said, “Offensively, we struggled at times and we were pretty stagnant in the fourth quarter. I’d like to see a little better tempo.
“It was our first game, but we have to play better Wednesday.”
DeMarkis Gary, a 6-4 senior, scored 22 points to power Northwest. The Hornets made 24 of 42 shots, yet they were 8-for-20 from the free throw line. In addition, their turnovers were costly, coach Gerald Jones said.
“We’re still learning how to play because 98 percent of our kids are new this season,” he said. “Those turnovers came from a combination of Alton’s quickness and our lack of experience.”
He figures the Hornets will improve as the season unfolds. Right now, it’s just a matter of playing. And following a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision Monday not to indict Ferguson police office Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the Hornets — like Vashon’s Wolverines — decided to keep playing in the AHS tourney. They both have two games remaining here this week.
“We talked about what we should do yesterday (Monday) and today,” Jones said Tuesday night. “We want to set an example, enjoy the game of basketball and get away from all the noise and ruckus.
“I wanted our kids to play and they know it.”
ALTON TIP-OFF CLASSIC
ALTON 67, NORTHWEST 58
Northwest 16 18 8 16 – 58
Alton 21 16 22 8 – 67
Northwest (1-1) – Gary 22, Warren 2, James 17, Williams 2, Boland 2, Thomas 6, Watkins 2, Childs 5. 2FG—22 3FG-2 FT-8 PF-17
Alton (1-0) – D. Edwards 9, Anderson 10, Hudson 10, Hobbs 5, M. Edwards 12, Wigfall 3, Latham 6, Thurmond 5, Lovings 4, Harris 3. 2FG-23 3FG-5 FT-6 PF-24