Photo by Diane Cox
Alton Redbird head girls’ basketball coach Bobby Rickman talks with the Redbirds on the sidelines during the Lady Redbird Tip-Off Classic to open the season at AHS.
GODFREY — Tag it as a time to regroup for the Alton High girls’ basketball team.
The Redbirds, 0-3 in their season-opening tournament that ended Nov. 22, are idle for more than a week before they play again. Alton’s next game is set for Dec. 2 at Belleville East in their Southwestern Conference opener. They will play four consecutive games against SWC foes.
“We have some players with new roles and they are in new situations,” second-year AHS head coach Bobby Rickman said. “They are adjusting because we have a bunch of people without a lot of experience.”
Alton lost to Cahokia, 39-38, Breese Mater Dei, 64-35, and eventual champion Calhoun, 69-35 in its weeklong tournament. The Warriors posted a 3-0 record to win the tourney title in their first appearance.
And Calhoun proved it’s going to be formidable for any team this season, especially its competition in Class 1A.
“There’s no doubt they have a good team,” Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen said. “They have a nice combination of quality players.”
The Redbirds are trying to find the right mix. LaJarvia Brown, a 5-foot-1 junior guard and all-tourney selection, did the bulk of their scoring in the AHS Tip-Off Classic. She poured in 56 points for three games, averaging nearly 19 points an outing. The rest of the Redbirds scored 52 points.
“It really starts with our defense,” Rickman said. “We have to be more aggressive and then have other people attacking the basket. We have to find other people who can penetrate more and score. LaJarvia is the only one who is consistently attacking the basket.”
He added: “On defense, we need to block out better, defend off the dribble and have more defensive pressure.”
Thus, Rickman figures the Redbirds are a work in progress as he strives to build a winning program. Alton went 15-13 last season. However, they are sorely missing 5-5 senior guard Jordann Wilson, sidelined with a torn ACL. Wilson served as the team’s top player last season and teamed with Brown to give the Birds a solid backcourt. Jasmine Bishop, another guard, transferred to Edwardsville.
Megan Paulda, a 5-9 senior guard/forward; Konnie Miller, a 5-8 senior forward; Jewel Wagner, a 5-11 junior forward/center; Cheriena Mitchell, a 5-6 senior forward; Chavon Buckingham, a 5-9 junior forward-center; and Kenya Burnett, a 5-9 sophomore forward, have logged ample playing time. So have 5-3 sophomore guard Ayonna Clanton and 5-7 junior guard/forward Destanee Dale.
Those nine players comprise the Redbirds’ varsity squad. Rickman said he saw some good signs from them in the tournament but pointed out there’s plenty to do.
“We really didn’t have any movement on offense against Calhoun,” he said. “We just settled for passing the ball around. We also needed to show more patience. Part of it was that we were worried about Calhoun’s size.”
Alton connected on just 23 percent of its shots — 15-for-65 — against the Warriors. They were 10 of 50 from the field for the first three quarters in trailing 56-23. Overall, Brown accounted for eight of their 15 baskets.
Following the Redbirds’ game at Belleville East, they’ll return home to welcome East St. Louis on Dec. 4. They entertain O’Fallon on Dec. 9 and go to Granite City on Dec. 11.
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