GODFREY — It took a quick burst, coupled with timely play, for the Alton Redbirds to make their comeback count Friday.
They used a strong second half to overtake Collinsville 50-42 in a Southwestern Conference game. Alton, still chasing East St. Louis in the conference race, improved to 21-4 overall and 9-2 in the league.
The Flyers are 11-0 in the SWC following a 71-69 victory over Belleville West. Both teams have three league dates remaining. Collinsville dropped to 15-11 and 4-6.
“Our focus got better,” the Redbirds’ Darrius Edwards said after they overcame a 28-17 first-half deficit. “We weren’t playing hard enough on defense, but then we got after them.
”Coach (Eric Smith) wanted us to pick it up and play harder.”
The Birds got the halftime message. Trailing 32-23 early in the third quarter, they went on an 11-0 spree to forge in front 34-32. They led 39-37 after three quarters and then stifled the Kahoks in the fourth quarter.
Smith said, “We started pressuring their guards more and that made a difference. We have some pretty resilient kids and they will battle and fight you the whole way.”
Edwards punched in a game-best 16 points, including 12 in the second half, to boost the Redbirds. Bryan Hudson contributed 12 points, while sophomore Maurice Edwards registered all seven of his points in the second half. Edwards’ back-to-back baskets midway through the third quarter gave the Birds life — and the lead. Carlos Anderson pitched in eight points, six the second half.
In their wobbly first half went they trailed 28-20, the Redbirds made 6 of 26 shots and committed 10 turnovers.
Free throws and poise under pressure down the stretch elevated the Redbirds. They made 17 of 26 fouls shots, while Collinsville converted on just 5 of 14 free throws. The Kahoks also committed 24 turnovers, eight more than the Redbirds.
“We seem to find a way to make plays at the end of the game,” Smith said.
Collinsville coach Darin Lee said, “Free throws and turnovers hurt us. That’s about it. We just have to hang onto the ball better and knock down our free throws.”
Alton also showed ample composure by holding onto the ball in a fourth quarter chess game. The Redbirds owned a 43-40 lead with 5:50 remaining and played keep-away from the Kahoks as Darrius Edwards mostly held the ball under his arm. Collinsville stayed in its zone defense for 3 minutes, 15 seconds before the teams went at it again.
“It was a little different than what we’ve done in the past,” Smith said of waiting out an opponent. “We showed we can play that way if we need to do it.”
Edwards pointed out, “It wasn’t that hard to hold the ball. But that’s the first time I’ve done that in a game.”
Lee was content to keep the game close and see what transpired in the closing minutes.
“I thought it played into our hands,” he said of Alton freezing the ball. “That’s what we wanted because it was a three-point game at that time. Then we didn’t make our free throws or get a stop.”
Emondre Rickman, the Kahoks’ 6-foot-8 senior bound for Indiana State, led them with 10 points. Teammate Sean Davis contributed nine points as did guard Brett Langley, who made three treys. Rickman and Davis combined for 16 points the first half. However, they managed to team for just three points after that.
“We missed some free throws,” said Lee, aware that Rickman and Davis were a combined 1-for-6 on their foul shots. Collinsville scored only 14 points in the second half. Overall, the Kahoks made 17 of 31 shots. The Redbirds were 16 of 47 from the field.
Alton is idle until next Friday when it goes to Edwardsville in SWC action. The Redbirds also have conference games with Belleville West (away, Feb. 24) and O’Fallon (home, Feb. 27) remaining.
ALTON 50, COLLINSVILLE 42
Collinsville 13 15 9 5 – 42
Alton 13 7 19 11 – 50
Collinsville (15-11, 4-6) – Emondre Rickman 10, Anfirnee Wilkinson 3, Brett Langley 9, Ronnie Midgett 4, Sean Davis 9, Zach Flora 2, Harrison Wethers 5. 2FG-14 3FG-3 FT-5 PF-18
Alton (21-4, 9-2) – Darrius Edwards 16, Carlos Anderson 8, Bryan Hudson 12, Maurice Edwards 7, Isaiah Thurmond 4, Josh Lovings 3. 2FG-15 3FG-1 FT-17 PF-15