Boys Varsity Basketball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
Redbirds get back in game, use 20-0 start to bury Panthers
Greg Shashack, email@example.com
Greg Shashack / The Telegraph
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Alton’s Donovan Clay (right) goes up to block a shot by O’Fallon’s Isaiah Cook in the first half of the Redbirds’ 71-42 Southwestern Conference boys basketball victory on Friday night at Panther Dome in
O’FALLON – The Alton Redbirds embraced their return to normalcy on Friday night.
“It’s nice, obviously,” Alton coach Eric Smith said, “to see smiles on kids’ faces today.”
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After 10 days between games, including five with no practice, the Redbirds returned to basketball with fury in a devastating start that buried the O’Fallon Panthers 71-42 in a Southwestern Conference boys basketball game at Panther Dome.
“We’ve been out for a while and to come together as a team and beat a team like this,” Alton senior Malik Smith said, “it is really great for us.”
Alton is 3-3 and 1-0 in the SWC. O’Fallon, which has lost 13 of its last 14 games with the Redbirds, drops to 2-3 and 0-2 in the conference.
It was the Redbirds’ first game since a Nov. 23 game with Riverview Gardens in the Alton Tournament was halted in the final seconds of the third quarter when a fight broke out between multiple members of both teams and carried into the bleachers among fans at Alton High.
Alton’s season was temporarily halted – the Redbirds forfeited three games – before Alton administrators decided to play on.
“It was really hard,” Malik Smith said of waiting on the verdict for his senior season. “We were waiting and ready to play. But that unfortunate event happened and it just took that away from us.”
The Redbirds dressed just nine players at O’Fallon. Six more sat on the bench in street clothes. Eric Smith said privacy issues prevent him from disclosing any discipline handed out for the fight. When asked if he could divulge how many were suspended for how long, Smith shook his head no. “I can’t say,” he said.
The answer was the same when asked if any players were kicked off the team or if all those disciplined would be back after serving suspensions.
The Redbirds certainly looked like a team focused on basketball in the game’s opening minutes. Malik Smith, Donovan Clay and Smith again knocked down 3-pointers on Alton’s first three possessions to put the Panthers down 9-0 after 100 seconds.
A 3-pointer from Moory Woods and another 3 from Malik Smith made it 17-0 with 4:30 left in the first quarter and Smith’s 12th point of the quarter put Alton up 20-0 after six minutes. It was an emotionally charged surge for the Redbirds, though Eric Smith downplayed that aspect.
“Open shots,” the coach said. “We got open shots because kids did their job and they were unselfish, they made the extra pass, they got paint touches.”
The Redbirds took a 30-14 lead to halftime and were never threatened. Malik Smith scored 21 points, Woods had 13, Ky’Lun Rivers and Andrew Jones both scored nine points and Clay finished with eight for Alton.
“A little bit different from what we’ve had in the past, we’ve been more of dribble drive and keep driving,” Eric Smith said. “The lineup we started the game with tonight are five kids that shoot the ball reasonably well – and some really, really well. … I don’t think we’re going to have a ton of problems scoring the basketball. But we’ve just got to try to stop people.”
The 3-pointers keyed Alton’s early push, but the Redbirds’ remain a team that prefers to get to the basket off the break. And fast breaks are born from defense.
“Our goal is to really play out in transition and to play in transition, you have to get stops,” Malik Smith said. “We say down in half-court defense – we really didn’t have that many players on the bench because we only have nine players – and we had to play half-court offense and it worked out.”
Despite the talent drain – for however long it may last – the Redbirds will stay true to their roots of playing hard and fast.
“I don’t think we change what we do,” Eric Smith said. “I just think we change the length of time that we do things. We’ll still press people.”
But instead of going “100 miles an hour for 32 minutes.” Smith said. “Defensively, we’ll kind of pick our spots where we chase people.”