GODFREY • A second-half surge fueled by Alton's seemingly endless supply of athletic, aggressive perimeter players gave the Redbirds boys basketball team a 63-52 Southwestern Conference victory against Edwardsville on Friday in front a jam-packed gym at Alton High.
Alton (14-3 overall, 6-2 conference) kept alive its hopes of capturing the league title. The victory dropped the Tigers (9-7, 4-3) further in the standings.
Edwardsville outscored Alton, the No. 3 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings, by three points in both the first quarter and second quarter to take a 28-22 lead into halftime.
It took the Redbirds less than a minute to erase that lead, and a couple of minutes after to take the lead for good.
Alton's comeback started when a technical was called against the Tigers at 7:33 of the third quarter. Senior guard Darrius Edwards made both free throws and senior guard Lavonte Hobbs scored on the ensuing layup to make it 28-26. Another Redbirds basket tied it 28-28. The teams slugged it out the rest of the frame and remained within four points of each other until the end of the quarter.
Sophomore Maurice Edwards, who missed the first half nursing a left thigh bruise, had the ball as Alton held for the last shot. Edwards shot down the right side into the lane and laid it off the glass with 1.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give Alton a 40-38 lead.
"He's talented, explosive and can do some great things with the basketball," Alton coach Eric Smith said. "He'll do some things that will make you pull your hair out, but it's a learning process."
Alton outscored Edwardsville 18-10 in the third quarter and 23-14 in the fourth quarter.
Darrius Edwards scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half, while senior Carlos Anderson had 16 of his team-high 18 points in the last two frames. Hobbs had four of his six, senior guard Nigel Harris had all five of his points and Maurice Edwards his four points.
"I thought we did some good things on defense," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "In the second half their dribble penetration got us in trouble. They used it to take advantage of some foul trouble we had inside."
The Tigers also were without senior guard Dan Marinko, who was on a football recruiting trip. Waldo praised the play of Jordan Harris, who filled Marinko's starting spot. But Marinko is a player who lends stability and leadership that calms moments of madness that the Tigers suffered through when Alton sped up the game.
"He might go down as the greatest athlete in the history of Edwardsville High School," Waldo said. "Any organization wants a Dan Marinko. He's a winner. A 1 percenter."
Sophomore Mark Smith led the Tigers with a game-high 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Senior guard Kyler Davis had 11 points, while sophomores Oliver Stephen and A.J. Epenesa contributed nine points apiece.
Both teams return to conference play Jan. 30 when Edwardsville plays host to Belleville West and Alton plays at Granite City.