Alton’s Josh Rivers (12) comes down with a rebound during the chamopionship game of the Alton Tip-Off Classic on Saturday night at Alton High in Godfrey. Rivers had 11 points in the loss that left the Redbirds with a 3-1 record.
Nathan Woodside / For The Telegraph
Alton’s Kevin Caldwell (front) drives to the basket on a St. Mary’s defender Saturday night in the Tip-Off Classic at Alton High in Godfrey. Caldwell was a first team all-tourney pick for the runner-up Redbirds.
ALTON – The Alton Redbirds boys basketball team suffered it’s first loss of the season Saturday night. falling to the St. Mary’s Catholic Dragons 75-67 in Alton Tip-Off Classic championship game.
St. Mary’s is 4-0 and repeats as tournament champion.
After being down 36-27 at the half, the Redbirds battled back midway though the third quarter.
A steal and fastbreak layup by Kevin Caldwell put the score at 36-33. The Dragons quickly got the bucket back, but Caldwell again scored on a wide open jumper on the next possession.
The Redbirds and Dragons exchanged two-point baskets before Alton’s Malik Smith hit a clutch corner 3-pointer to bring the Redbirds within two. One possession later, a foul put Alton’s Josh Rivers at the line. He missed the first foul shot, but sunk the second, putting the score at 44-43 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
“We’ve got decent kids,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “We’ve got kids who can play. I think this is the fourth time that we’ve played them in three years, and this is the only game that hasn’t been within two points, so we’ve been competitive each time we’ve played them.”
That would be as close as the Redbirds would get, as foul trouble, missed free throws and rebounding deficits plagued the squad from there on.
While the Redbirds have played strong in their 3-1 start, Smith said some of the team’s weaknesses were magnified against a 4-0 Dragons team.
“When you turn the ball over and you don’t make your free throws, it kind of hurts a little bit,” he said. “Just defensively, we need to learn how to be tougher. We gave in on a couple possessions, and against a good team like that. … The good thing about us is, we’ve played undersized here for years. We don’t necessarily do a poor job under the glass. I mean, there will be some possessions where we give one, and two, and three offensive rebounds, but throughout the course of the game, we do OK.”
The Redbirds were led in scoring by Smith’s 26 points that included four 3-pointers.
“Malik can do some things on offense. He has the ability to score the basketball – a nice combination of what he can do on the floor and ability to shoot the basketball,” Smith said. “He’s obviously a key force on offense.”
Rivers followed up with 11, while Kevin Caldwell and Darrell Smith both had 10.
Caldwell was named to the all-tournament first yeam, while Smith was named to the second team.
The Redbirds open Southwestern Conference play against Granite City at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at SIUE’s Vadalabene Center.