GODFREY — It wasn’t always pretty, but for a season-opener, Alton coach Eric Smith will take it.
The Redbirds and Riverview Gardens (Mo.) opened play in the Alton Tip-Off Classic playing a fast-paced, run-and-gun style, one even in which Smith said his players weren’t at full speed and in top form.
But led by a trio of double-digit scorers, including Donovan Clay’s game-high 15 points, the Redbirds ran away with a 69-46 victory over the Rams on Monday at Alton High School.
“I thought it was a decent first night for us,” Smith said. “We don’t want to admit it, but you kind of expect to not shoot the ball very well and some careless turnovers. That stuff kind of happened a little bit, but kids competed. They played hard until the last horn went off. Like I told them, there’s obviously some things we would like to do better, but we’ve got practice for that. It’s a first step.”
Alton (1-0) started slow, led 9-4 after one, but then got it going in the middle two quarters scoring 23 and 21 points, respectively, in the second and third quarters.
Malik Smith popped for 14 points and Darrell Smith added 10 for the Redbirds, who got nine players on the score sheet. Alton benefited from the Rams (0-1), who were careless with the basketball on many possessions and finished with 35 turnovers. The Redbirds had 24 themselves, a number Smith wants drastically cut down and shot just 24 of 59 from the floor but, they made eight treys.
“We can complain about everything, but at the end of the night, a win’s a win,” Smith said. “… The one thing going into the season I was concerned about was just our toughness. We’ve got really athletic kids. We’ve got really skilled kids. We’ve got some kids that can play, but I didn’t necessarily know if we would have the toughness to sit down on somebody and guard them for three or four passes in a possession, would we get a body on somebody and box out, would we fight for a rebound, would we dive for loose balls? We took two charges tonight and it probably took nine games last year to get a charge.
“Our kids competed. I was pleased with the way they did things.”
When the Rams, who were led by Tavon Graham’s 11 points, opened the second on a 4-1 start and pulled within 10-8, Alton started shooting it well and made 13 of 23 field goals in the middle two quarters and led by as many as 31 in the game.
“We’re going to put kids on the floor that are athletic,” Smith said. “And we’ve done that since I’ve been here. We’re always going to have athletic kids. Being athletic’s fine, but we’ve got to have five kids out on the floor that compete. … We didn’t run a whole lot of transition (Monday). I think we can do a little bit better, but I think a lot of that’s conditioning. We’re a little bit slow with that stuff. With the group we start with, we’ve got five kids that can handle the basketball.”
Carbondale 76, Carnahan (Mo.) 58 — The Terriers opened the tournament with a convincing win over the Cougars, a St. Louis-based school that plays in the Public High League.
Darius Beane, a 6-4 senior, led all scorers with 31 points, including 17 in the first half when the Terriers raced out to a 38-22 lead. Aaron Brookins, a 6-2 senior, led Carnahan with 25 points, including 14 of his team’s first half total, and Marquis Hayes had 24.
ALTON 69, RIVERVIEW GARDENS 46
Alton 9 23 21 16 — 69
Riverview Gardens 4 13 14 15 — 46
Alton (1-0) — Caldwell 8, Miller 6, D. Smith 10, Clay 15, J. Rivers 6, M. Smith 14, Terrell 6, Jam. Jones 3, Droste 2. 2FG-16, 3FG-8, FT-13, PF-23.