EAST ST. LOUIS – Even though they were without one of their top players due to an injury, the Alton Redbirds were still determined to pull off a season sweep over the East St. Louis Flyers when they squared off on Tuesday.
Instead, the Redbirds left East Side with another loss
Alton dropped its season-high fourth straight game after falling to the Flyers 69-61 in a Southwestern Conference game. The Redbirds dropped to 9-5 overall and 5-2 in conference play.
A month ago, Alton knocked off the Flyers 75-71 at home. On Tuesday, the Redbirds played without senior Kevin Caldwell, who suffered an ankle injury in the 65-40 loss to the Belleville West Maroons on Friday.
Alton coach Eric Smith said there is no timetable on when Caldwell will return. The Redbirds' next game will be a road game against Edwardsville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Alton had three players in double figures. Junior Josh Rivers, who was held to 5 points in the last meeting against the Flyers, finished with 21 points with two 3-pointers. Junior Malik Smith finished with 19 points with four treys and Ahmad Sanders scored 10 points.
The Redbirds also got a strong effort off the bench from Charles Miller, who finished with six points and five rebounds off the bench.
Also for AHS, Donovan Clay had two points, four rebounds and three blocked shots.
East St. Louis improved to 8-7 overall and 3-4 in conference play and gave Mark Chambers his first win as the school's coach. Last week, Chambers took over coaching duties following the sudden resignation of Fernando Stevenson.
The Flyers were coming off a 51-49 loss to Granite City on Friday. They lost on a last-second shot.
On Tuesday, East St. Louis came back from a six-point second quarter deficit to avoid the season sweep to the Redbirds.
Terrance Hargrove finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, Joe Reece scored 16 points, Jashawn Anderson had 12 points and Traveion Jones added 10.
With Alton leading 21-15 with 4:16 to go in the second quarter, Anderson – who was held to two points in the last meeting against the Redbirds – scored eight straight points during a two-minute stretch to give the Flyers a 23-21 lead.
East St. Louis led 31-28 at halftime.
The Redbirds got within 35-34 on a free throw with 4:46 left in the third, but that's as close as they would get the rest of the game.
The Flyers stormed to a 7-0 lead, forcing Smith to call a timeout with 5:36 left in the first quarter. The Redbirds responded with a 12-0 run to take a 12-7 lead after the first quarter.
Miller scored a couple of baskets during that run. He also hit two free throws with 4:16 left in the second to give the Redbirds a 21-15 lead before East St. Louis made its big rally.
The Redbirds had won six games in a row before their four-game losing streak. The losing streak started on Dec. 30, when they fell to Belleville West 72-53 in the semifinals of the Centralia Holiday Tournament.
On Friday, Alton lost to the Maroons again in the battle of undefeated conference teams. The Redbirds won their first five conference games before falling to Belleville West.
With Tuesday's loss, the Redbirds dropped to third place in the league standings, one half-game behind Edwardsville, which is 5-1 in SWC play.
Alton lost to the Tigers three times last year, including in the Class 4A Granite City Regional championship game.
The Redbirds also played their first road game of the season on Tuesday. Alton had played eight home games, a tournament and a game at SIUE this season.