GODFREY – Working overtime proved heartbreaking for the Alton Redbirds here Tuesday night.
And that heartache included falling out of first place in the Southwestern Conference boys’ basketball standings.
Belleville East outlasted Alton, 80-76, in an overtime thriller to defeat the Redbirds for the second time this season. The Lancers also won a one-point game in Belleville on Feb. 7.
“It was a fun win against a very good team,” East coach Abel Schrader said.
The Redbirds would beg to differ. Alton, ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press Class 4A state poll, dropped to 20-4 and 8-3. East, now 16-7 and 7-3, remained in the hunt for the conference championship. Edwardsville, which downed Collinsville 49-39 on Tuesday, is the lone SWC team with two league losses.
Alton plays host to Edwardsville, which is 22-2 and 9-2, on Friday.
“It can go either way on every night in this conference,” AHS coach Eric Smith said. “We had to exert so much energy to get back into the game that we made some mental mistakes near the end.”
The Lancers led 9-0, 23-13 early in the second quarter, 43-30 early in the third quarter and 55-43 moments into the fourth quarter. Yet the Redbirds refused to buckle.
They battled back and used a 25-point fourth quarter to knot things at 68-68 by the end of regulation. D’Antae McMurray sank two free throws with 21.9 seconds remaining to get the Redbirds within striking distance at 68-66. McMurray then converted a pair of three throws with 3.7 seconds to play and force the overtime.
“D’Antae is a talented player and he does some nice things,” Smith said. McMurray’s 22 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, stirred the Redbirds.
Teammate Carlos Anderson, playing in just the third game following a Dec. 26 injury, pitched in 19 points. Anderson missed 13 games after suffering a broken knuckle on the index finger of his right hand. Anderson made 7 of 10 shots.
Teammate Bryan Hudson chipped in with 16 points, including four in the overtime. His dunk with 1:22 remaining in OT gave AHS a 76-72 advantage.
East, however, wasn’t finished. The Lancers closed to 76-74 with 1:07 to go and following a missed Alton shot, they cut it to 76-75 with 31.7 seconds left.
Darreon Reddick of Belleville East then emerged as the difference-maker. He stole an inbounds pass and scored with 27 seconds to play. Reddick, a 6-foot-3 senior, also made three free throws in the final 7.6 seconds to complete the scoring.
In all, the Redbirds were outscored 8-0 in the final 82 seconds.
“I thought we had given it away in the overtime,” Schrader said.
Reddick’s 19 points – nine in the overtime – lifted the Lancers. “He’s a good player,” Smith said “and he made some big plays for them. His steal and basket might have been the biggest one of the game.”
East had four players score in double figures. The winners hit 29 of 50 shots, or 58 percent. Alton was 30 of 61 from the floor in the point-a-thon.
“They shot a lot of layups,” Smith said.
Schrader added, “We handle their pressure pretty well because they (Redbirds) pressured us the entire game. A lot of guys stepped up for us.”
In the process, the Lancers kept their conference title hopes alive. “On any given night, anybody can win in this conference,” Schrader said. “You have to be fortunate when you get a road win.”
BELLEVILLE EAST 80, ALTON 76, OT
Belleville East 20 18 15 15 (12) – 80
Alton 13 17 13 25 (8) – 76
Belleville East (16-7, 7-3) – Hunter 13, Reddick 19, Blaylock 9, Cox 12, Cross 3, Schanuel 15, Sylvester 9. 2FG-26 3FG-3 FT-19 PF-17
Alton (20-4, 8-3) – Williams-Bey 10, McMurray 22, Edwards 4, Hudson 16, Wigfall 1, Thurmond 2, Hobbs 2, Anderson 19. 2FG-26 3FG-4 FT-12 PF-23