GODFREY — The Alton Redbirds are trying to learn how to put together a full 32-minute effort in a basketball game. Head coach Eric Smith thinks once that happens they could be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch.
On Friday it took a solid second-half effort to put away the Granite City Warriors 64-49 in Southwestern Conference action at AHS. The win elevated Alton to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the SWC. The Warriors slipped to 3-4 and 0-3 on the league circuit with the loss.
“Right now I think it's just our attention span and our focus,” Smith said. “Whether it's being focused on what you need to do at the beginning of the game or what you need to do after you come out at halftime, it's just a point where we lose our focus. If there's a formula to get that fixed we've got to take care of that now.”
The 2014-15 Warriors are vastly improved from the two-win squad that took the floor last season and that was part of the problem Friday. Alton senior Darrius Edwards, who led all scorers with 16 points, admitted the Redbirds kind of looked past GCHS early in the game.
“Our team, we just came out thinking the wrong way,” Edwards said. “We were thinking, 'It's Granite City and we're going to win automatically.' They came out playing pretty hard. We underestimated Granite City and they've got some pretty good guys. They knock down shots and they finish plays.”
And that's the rub with Smith.
“That's what we've been trying to tell them the last two or three games, whatever your opinion is of somebody shouldn't necessarily change your approach,” Smith said. “I keep telling our kids we're not playing against our opponent, we're playing against the game. You're supposed to play the game a certain way. We've got to find a way to put it together no matter who we're playing.”
But Granite City head coach Steve Roustio saw issues with trying to guard the athletic Redbirds and their depth. In the end he thought that was the difference and AHS has a bright future the rest of the season.
“I'm going to tell you, this (Alton) team, if they're not the best, they are one of the best in our conference,” Roustio said. “They've got big guys, they've got guys that can shoot, they've got guys that are unselfish, they pass the ball, they find layups, they get after it on defense, they're good.”
Buckets by Darrius Edwards and Isaiah Thurmond started the night, putting Alton ahead 4-0, but GCHS answered with a 3-pointer from Jake Roustio to make it 4-3. That was the trend in the first half, as AHS started to pull away, the Warriors would answer to stay close.
Edwards hit a trey and a 2-point field goal to close the first quarter with the Birds ahead 17-9, but Granite City got a free throw from D.J. Miller and score from Jalen Banks to open the second quarter and cut it to 17-12.
Jake Roustio's second 3-pointer of the game with 4:06 to play got the Warriors within three at 23-20. They were trailing by six late in the half at 31-25, but a missed shot by Alton saw Darrius Edwards with a loose ball well beyond the arc. Edwards set his feet and shot as time expired, sinking the long-range bomb to give the Redbirds a nine-point cushion at 34-25 entering the break.
“That three at the end makes it a nine-point game instead of a six-point game,” Steve Roustio said.
Edwards said he simply looked at the clock and new he didn't have time to do anything else with the ball.
“I looked at the clock and there were four seconds left, but it was already too late to bring it out,” he said. “I was already in the motion and I just shot it. I believe in my shot.”
Smith scolded the Redbirds at half though, urging them to defend better in the second half and not overlook the Warriors.
“We told them that we couldn't guard them in the half court and we were going to have to try and do something different,” Smith said. “It's disappointing because we run around telling everybody what great athletes we are and we just didn't have the ability to sit down and guard them in the half court.”
Carlos Anderson and Edwards scored the first two field goals of the second half, building a double digit lead for the Redbirds for the first time at 38-25.
Alton rolled through the second half, never letting its lead dip below 10 points the remainder of the game. The Redbirds led 51-36 after three quarters. They outscored GCHS 17-11 in the third frame.
The Warriors cut it to 51-41 with 6:27 left in the game, but failed to get any closer.
“We cut it to 10, but our guys need to comprehend that at that point we've got to get two, three, four stops in a row and score every other possession and then we find ourselves down five instead of 10,” Steve Roustio said. “We're not there yet. We gave up 64 points tonight, which I'm not happy about, but our intensity is so much better and we're going in the right direction.”
Maurice Edwards joined Darrius Edwards in double-digit scoring for the Redbirds Friday with 11 points. Anderson, Bryan Hudson and Lavonte Hobbs all chipped in with seven points apiece, too. Overall, 11 AHS players scored in the game.
Granite City was led by Kenny Berry's 15 points. Miller added nine, while Banks and Ron Allen each netted eight to compliment Berry.
ALTON 64, GRANITE CITY 49
GRANITE CITY 9 16 11 13 — 49
ALTON 17 17 17 13 — 64
ALTON (6-1, 2-1) — Darrius Edwards 16, Maurice Edwards 11, Carlos Anderson 7, Bryan Hudson 7, Isaiah Thurmond 4, Josh Lovings 4, Lavonte Hobbs 7, Demonte' Wigfall 2, Nigel Harris 2, Dalon Henley 2, Darius Collins 2. 2FG — 22 3FG — 4 FT — 8 PF — 14.
GRANITE CITY (3-4, 0-3) — Rheem Beckwith 3, Kenny Berry 15, D.J. Miller 9, Jake Roustio 6, Ron Allen 8, Jalen Banks 8. 2FG — 13 3FG — 5 FT — 8 PF — 13.