ALTON — Taken to the breaking point, the O'Fallon Panthers avoided falling to pieces.
Charlie Harmon scored 20 points off the bench to lead four players in double figures as the Panthers picked up their first win of the season by beating the Alton Redbirds 74-63 Wednesday in the Alton Tip-Off Classic.
The Panthers led by 17 points in the third quarter, but the Redbirds rallied to get within a point with 5:23 left to play.
Donovan Franklin made all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer and the Panthers were able to keep the Redbirds at bay.
"We're a young team and we're making mistakes that young teams make," O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. "I was proud of the guys that they showed character to have a big lead and then take it all the way back to the breaking point, but we didn't completely break. We had a lot of bad moments there, but we didn't break. We showed the poise the last couple of minutes to take that from one back up to double digits."
The Panthers (1-1) also got 16 points from Franklin, 15 points from Todd Porter and 11 points from Parker Roustio.
But, it was Harmon who provided the big boost against the smaller Redbirds.
"We know he can do some good things," Gibson said of the 6-foot-6 Harmon. "He didn't have as good a game as he wanted in Game 1 (against Jacksonville), but he was going up against some big bodies. He's a football kid who has only had a couple of weeks that he's been touching a basketball, so he kind of struggled in that game. He does have some good hands, and today he made some nice catches and was able to use his height advantage."
The Panthers committed 25 turnovers, while the Redbirds made only 16 of 34 free-throw attempts.
"They are quicker, they can put pressure on us, and we didn't handle it very well, especially early," Gibson said of the turnovers. "Luckily, they kind of struggled from the free-throw line, and that kind of helped us out there."
The Redbirds dropped to 1-1. They lost senior guard A'basa Brown to an apparent ankle injury in the second quarter, but still mounted a comeback in the second half.
"We right now just go through some spurts," first-year Alton coach Eric Smith said. "We do some really nice things for a few positions, and then we do some really not-so nice things for a few positions. We play two plays well and we play two plays bad. It's just building on that. Can we get a third play well, can we get a fourth play well?"
Tyrome Parker paced the Redbirds with 18 points. Carlos Anderson added 14 points, Brown had 13 points and Larry Givens had 10 points.
The Redbirds grabbed a 3-0 lead, but the Panthers reeled off a 12-2 run to go ahead 12-5.
Harmon and Darien McClain came off the bench to lead the surge. Harmon had seven points in the opening quarter, while McClain connected on a 3-pointer.
The Redbirds closed the gap to 17-13 on a breakaway layup by Brown with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.
Two free throws from Berry and another 3-pointer from McClain enabled the Panthers to extend their lead quickly to 22-13 in the second quarter.
The Redbirds twice drew within four points, but then fell back after Brown limped off the court.
An 8-0 run that included a 3-pointer by Franklin put the Panthers up 33-21.
Things got worse for the Redbirds when Parker left the game with an injury with 48 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Panthers led 34-25 at the end of the first quarter.
Parker returned at the start of the second half.
The Panthers opened up a 47-30 lead with an eight-point run in the third quarter after Alton's Aaron Womack was hit with a technical foul.
Roustio had two baskets during the run.
The Redbirds trimmed their deficit to 10 points, 54-44, on a 3-pointer by Givens with 16 seconds to go in the third quarter.
The Redbirds kept coming, eventually getting within one point on two free throws by Parker with 5:23 remaining.
After Franklin stemmed the tide with his three throws, the Redbirds got a layup by Derrick Thurmond to draw within two.
The Panthers scored six straight points on baskets from close range by Franklin, Roustio and Porter to go back up eight points.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.