GRANITE CITY – Darrius Edwards of the Alton Redbirds figured they would have their hands full with Granite City on Friday in Memorial Gym.
He had it right. The Redbirds needed a strong second half to subdue the Warriors, 66-56, in a Southwestern Conference boys’ basketball game. Alton, defeating Granite City for the second time this season, improved to 15-3 overall and 7-2 in the SWC. The Warriors dropped to 9-11 and 0-8.
“It wasn’t an easy game,” said Edwards, the Birds’ top scorer with 19 points. “They (Warriors) are so underrated.”
The Warriors scored the game’s first eight points and led 31-30 at half before the Redbirds turned things their way in the third quarter. They used an 8-0 spurt to forge in front 47-42 and never trailed after that. Nevertheless, Granite City fought back to knot things at 54-54 with 3:17 to go.
Then Edwards, who led the way with 19 points and supplied some dead-eye shooting, hit a key 3-pointer with 2:49 remaining. Alton extended it to a nine-point run and Granite City never recovered.
“The basket must have looked really big for Edwards tonight,” Granite City coach Steve Roustio said. “He’s a really good player and so is Carlos Anderson. And (Bryan) Hudson battles and fights you.
“They play really hard and are very well-coached.”
Edwards connected on 7 of 9 shots, including five treys. Anderson punched in 17 points, provided three dunks and a trey. Hudson added 10 points.
The Birds used sizzling shooting to spark their hard-earned victory. They made 22 of 41 field-goal attempts, including eight treys and five dunks.
“We shot the ball OK and played all right,” Roustio said of Granite City’s 22-for-46 shooting. “Alton really shot it well.”
AHS coach Eric Smith lauded Edwards, a 6-foot senior, for his stylish work and sharp shooting. “For the most part, Darrius saved us tonight,” he said.
Smith added, “We talked about all week how this was going to be a tough game for us. And it was an important game because of the regional seedings.”
Both Alton and Granite City are cast in the Class 4A Edwardsville Regional. So is Quincy and the host Tigers. If the Redbirds are the top seed, they could face the Warriors a third time this season.
“They’re a little better than they have been the last couple of years,” Smith said of the Warriors. “We were able to turn around this game in the second half and we needed to do that. We still have aspirations in the conference.”
League-leading East St. Louis maintained its two-game lead over the Redbirds by blasting Belleville East, 96-66, on Friday. The Flyers, guided by interim coach Hank Harris against the Lancers, are 9-0 in the league. Harris, an Edwardsville High graduate, took over this week for head coach Tony Young, placed on paid administrative leave following an internal suspension.
Granite City, still without a SWC win since the 2012-13 season, had four players score in double figures against the Redbirds. Kenny Berry, a 6-1 junior guard, led the way with 17 points. Traron Allen, a 6-5 junior forward, pitched in 13 points. Teammates D.J. Miller and Davaughntez Jennings had 10 points apiece. The Warriors made 6 of 9 free throws, while the Redbirds converted 13 of 22 foul shots.
“We picked it up when we had to do it tonight and I love the way we are playing,” Edwards said. “We’re playing together.”
Anderson added, “We came out in the second half and got after it more. It was like a wake-up call for us, so it’s a great experience.
“We have to come out and play hard all the time. There aren’t any easy games in the conference.”
ALTON 65, GRANITE CITY 56
Granite City 15 16 14 11 – 56
Alton 11 19 17 18 – 65
Granite City (9-11, 0-8) – Traron Allen 13, Kenny Berry 17, D.J. Miller 10, Jake Roustio 3, Jalan Banks 3, Davaughntez Jennings 10. 2FG-16 3FG-6 FT-6 PF-16
Alton (15-3, 7-2) – Darrius Edwards 19, Carlos Anderson 17, Bryan Hudson 10, Isaiah Thurmond 8, Maurice Edwards 5, Lavonte Hobbs 3, Josh Lovings 3. 2FG-14 3FG-8 FT-13 PF-14