Alton coach Eric Smith watches his team from the sideline during a game against Belleville East last season at Alton High. The Redbirds were back at home Wednesday night and improved to 2-0 with a tourney victory over Ritenour.
Billy Hurst / For The Telegraph
GODFREY — Malik Smith got the ball rolling for the Alton Redbirds.
And when the Ritenour (Mo.) Huskies had seen enough of Smith in the first half, Kevin Caldwell Jr. and Darrell Smith took the scoring reigns in the second half.
The Redbirds used balanced scoring, led by Malik Smith’s 22 points (15 in the first half), Caldwell’s 20 (14 in the second half) and Darrell Smith’s 17 points (13 in the second half), and Alton used a 12-0 run at the end of the third quarter to pull away from the Huskies in a 85-71 victory Wednesday night at the Alton Tip-Off Classic at Alton High School.
With the win, Alton (2-0) took control of Pool B and can clinch a spot in Saturday’s championship with a win Friday over O’Fallon. Ritenour (1-1), which beat O’Fallon 65-58 on Tuesday, will play Riverview Gardens (Mo.) and look for help getting into the title game.
Malik Smith, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, was the beneficiary of the basketball in the first half when he made his first four field goal attempts in the first quarter and 6 of 10 with drives to the basket and a spot-up trey.
“We like to swing the ball so everybody can get the opportunity to score,” Malik Smith said. “… They were trying to press us (in the first half) and Kevin did a good job of getting up the court and swinging the ball to me and I was able to get easy lay-ups and easy open shots.”
Alton would get leads of four, six, even eight points and once led by 10 in the first half, but Ritenour, which had five kids finish in double figures (Jonathan Bishop with 17, Barrion Clemons with 14, Kobe Smith and Darrell Bolden each with 11 and Nick Williams with 10), kept clawing back, tied the game on two separate occasions and were within one (39-38) before Alton used a big run in the third quarter to pull away.
“They’re big dudes, they’re tough, they’re physical, they competed,” Alton coach Eric Smith said of Ritenour. “That team wouldn’t have any trouble in our conference. They beat one the other night. I was really impressed with how hard their kids played. They didn’t give in.”
But when the Redbirds used a 13-0 run to increase its lead to 52-38 early in the fourth quarter (they led by as many as 17 twice), there was no coming back this time.
“I think conditioning got into them a little bit,” Eric Smith said of the Huskies. “They were a little step slower as the game went on and our kids kept going.”
The Huskies took away Malik Smith’s ability to drive to the basket, so Caldwell and Darrell Smith obliged and took those obligations.
“We’ve got so many people that can score on our basketball team,” Malik Smith said. “That makes everything run smoother with our new offense that we put in this season. It helps everybody get moving and everybody to be able to touch the ball and get easy, open shots.
“(The new offense) is simple, but it’s a lot to learn because we’ve got so many sets. We’ve just got to be able to learn it in practice.”
Junior Josh Rivers also added 12 points for the Redbirds, including eight in the first half to help Malik Smith’s efforts.
“For the most part the last couple years, we’ve probably had one or two guys that have been kind of the main focal points,” Eric Smith said. “Teams kind of focus on them a little bit more and they have to work so hard to score, you saw us tonight, we had to work hard to score, but it’s not one guy putting it on the floor and trying to dribble through everybody and make a play for somebody else. Josh made a couple beautiful passes out of the pinch post tonight where guys were cutting. It’s just a nice thing to have when kids will cut. But the thing we’ve got to fix is to cut hard and we’ll get more opportunities, but it’s a nice thing to have when kids will cut and move and be unselfish.”
Ritenour was done in by 27 turnovers, and in two games, the Redbirds have seen the opposition commit 62 of them, but also on the flip side, Alton committed 21 of their own and 45 in two games. But it’s not for carelessness most of the time but may be from being too unselfish.
“We’ve got a bunch of turnovers that we’d like to cut down on, but there were a couple times as coaches where we were like, ‘We made too many passes and you’ve got to shoot that shot,’” Eric Smith said. “That’s a change for us. It’s a nice change for us in the fact that we’ve got to talk about being too unselfish as opposed to maybe saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to give that ball up,’ which is nice.”
Alton Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017 honored — The Alton High School Athletic Hall of Fame honored its Class of 2017 at halftime of the Redbirds game on Wednesday.
Being inducted were Leon Huff, a 1968 graduate who played basketball and is the father of Dawn Elliott, mother of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott; Ron Caldwell, a 1971 graduate who also played basketball and grandfather of Kevin Caldwell Jr. and father of top 10 scorer in school history, Kevin Caldwell; Terry Winston, a 1990 graduate and track and field hurdler; bowling’s Ashley Cox, a 2003 graduate; Joe Hook, a 1973 graduate, football coach (1999-2009) and softball coach, assistant athletics director and the creator of the athletics HOF.
The 1960 state champion 880-yard relay boys track team (Ron Ayres, Marvin Bock, B.B. Gater, Mike Yavorski), 1965 state champion one-mile relay boys track team (Percy Clark, Phil Dourson, Jeff Bernard, Maurice Pittman) and the 1970 state champion one-mile relay boys track team (Lester ‘Bo’ Scott, Bobby Rogers, Rodger Bower, Milton Johnson) were also honored.
Huff and Caldwell played college basketball at Drake University and were Alton Exchange Club Players of the Year (Huff in 1968 and Caldwell in 1971).
With the new inductees, there are now 15 teams, nine coaches, 44 individuals and one friend of athletics included in the HOF.
ALTON 85, RITENOUR 71
Ritenour 19 13 16 23 — 71
Alton 21 18 19 27 — 85
Ritenour (1-1) — Beach 6, Clemons 14, K. Smith 11, Bolden 11, Holmes-Greenwood 2, Bishop 17, Williams 10. 2FG-24 3FG-2 FT-17 PF-26.
Alton (2-0) — Sanders 8, Caldwell 20, D. Smith 17, Clay 2, J. Rivers 12, M. Smith 22, Terrell 4. 2FG-28 3FG-3 FT-20 PF-27.