GODFREY – They finished what they started in a winning way Friday night.
The Alton Redbirds used a 22-8 getaway to set the scene for a 66-36 victory over Vashon of St. Louis in the AHS Tip-Off Classic.
The Redbirds, 3-0 in their boys’ basketball tournament, meet 3-0 Chatham Glenwood at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for the title. The Titans rode Cole Harper’s 32 points for a 56-32 win over Northwest Academy of St. Louis in Friday’s first game. Northwest plays Jacksonville at 5:30 p.m. Saturday for third place. Both teams are 1-2 in the tourney.
Darrius Edwards scored 11 of his game-best 15 points in the opening quarter as the Redbirds hit 10 of 14 shots and built a 14-point lead. They didn’t make a turnover in stinging the 0-4 Wolverines early and often.
“Alton has an aggressive team and they play hard defensively,” Vashon coach Deandre Davis said. “We needed to be focused on taking care of the ball better against them because they are pretty tough.
“We knew what was in store for us.”
Guard Brandon Jones scored 11 points for the Wolverines, hampered by 24 turnovers. Overall, they made 16 of 50 shots.
The Birds hit 26 of 50 field-goal attempts, but sagged a bit in the second and third quarters when they scored a total of 21 points. Solid bench play spurred them in the fourth quarter.
“We have to find a way to maintain consistency,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “We played with high energy for a little stretch early in the game, then all of a sudden we went stagnant.”
And that’s when the reserves helped to pick up the pace. Eight of them combined for 31 points, or nearly half of the Redbirds’ total. Josh Lovings paced them with eight points and Nigel Harris added six more. Kevin Caldwell, a 5-foot-9 freshman, pitched in four more for his first varsity points.
“I want to come in and do the job,” the 5-9 senior guard Lovings said of his role. “It’s a not a drop off when (the reserves) come into the game. We want to be consistent and keep hustling. We all know each other and it’s like a family.”
Edwards said, “We have a lot of depth and all of the guards pressure the ball. That’s our strength. We just need to execute our plays on offense."
He made 5 of 6 shots in that energetic first quarter. “Coach said I needed to pick it up,” Edwards said. The Redbirds got the message, then coasted for a while before turning up the intensity again.
“We can take advantage of our depth and we have some guys buying into it,” Smith said. “We need everybody to commit to the style of playing as hard as they can when they are on the floor.
“We have a lot of guys that have an opportunity to play and be productive.”
Now, the Redbirds aim to defend their championship against Glenwood, which hasn’t allowed any team to score 40 points thus far. Smith is hoping the Birds can dent the Titans’ tight zone defense.
“We still haven’t shot the ball well yet,” he said.
ALTON TIP-OFF CLASSIC
ALTON 66, VASHON 36
Alton 22 9 12 23 – 66
Vashon 8 9 9 10 – 36
Alton (3-0) – D. Edwards 15, Anderson 4, Hudson 8, Thurmond 3, M. Edwards 5, Lovings 8, Wigfall 3, Latham 2, Hobbs 2, Golley 3, Henley 3, Harris 6, Caldwell 4. 2FG-19 3FG-6 FT-10 PF-17
Vashon (0-4) – D. Jones 4, Weston 6, Curry 2, Smith 2, B. Jones 11, Mitchell 5, Bradley 6. 2FG-14 3Fg-2 FT-2 PF-18