GRANITE CITY — When the Granite City Warriors go to the basket, good things happen.
The Warriors repeatedly drove to the basket, either getting a layup or getting fouled in their 66-58 win over the O'Fallon Panthers on Friday in their Southwestern Conference opener.
"We just have to keep driving to the rim if they're in foul trouble," said senior guard Omar Walker, who led the Warriors with 23 points.
With no player taller than 6-foot-4, Granite City coach Steve Roustio said it's important for his team to attack the basket.
"I think it's important for us to get to the rim if we can," Roustio said. "Not really having a bona fide post player anymore, we're running some stuff with Devin Narvaez not only playing inside, but stepping out and being a guard, too.
"I think that offense begs for driving, and I think our guys took the ball to the basket pretty well."
The Warriors sank 30 of their 42 free-throw chances. They were 12-for-15 in the fourth quarter.
"They were the aggressive team," O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson said. "They shot 42 free throws and we shot eight or something like that. We got in foul trouble because they were aggressive. We had trouble defending, and, we weren't aggressive. They didn't have to foul us because we weren't making any aggressive moves to get fouled."
The Panthers (3-2) were led by Todd Porter with 16 points, Charlie Harmon with 12 points, Tyus Berry and Darien McClain with 10 points and Donovan Franklin with eight points.
Both Berry and Parker Roustio fouled out, while Harmon was in foul trouble almost the entire fourth quarter.
The Warriors also got 14 points from Perry Grimes, nine points from Troy Garcia and Devin Narvaez and eight points from Darrell Miller.
The Warriors improved to 4-1 overall, 1-0 in the SWC. They rebounded from a 58-52 loss to Taylorville in the Stovetop Stuffing Classic last Saturday at Triad High School.
"It was a disappointment to lose to Taylorville, it really was," Roustio said. "Not that we thought that was a guaranteed win, because this is high school basketball and there is nothing guaranteed, but having beaten them the two years previous, we thought we could come out victorious and have a Thanksgiving Tournament championship. That was a wake-up call for us."
The score was tied at 14-14 at the end of the first quarter and then tied five more times in the second quarter.
Two free throws by Walker with 1:33 left in the second quarter gave the Warriors a 28-27 edge at halftime.
The two teams traded the lead in the third quarter until the Warriors got hot from the outside.
Miller, Grimes and Garcia combined for three straight 3-pointers during a 13-1 run in the third quarter that enabled them to open up a 10-point advantage.
"That's what got the team real hyped," Walker said of the 3-pointers. "That's what did it right there."
The Panthers never could make up the lost ground.
"Really, besides for a two-minute stretch there, it was played pretty evenly," Gibson said. "They hit those big 3s right in a row to build that lead up, where it goes from being a tied game to all of the sudden 10-11 points. We're not a quick offensive team. We don't strike quickly."
The Panthers drew within six points on a 3-pointer by Porter with 40 seconds left, but Garcia and Miller each sank two free throws in the final 21 seconds to seal the win.
"When you have a senior team and you have a 12-point lead and it gets to seven and then all of the sudden it's back up to 10, that shows that you have some guys who are willing to get some stuff done on the court and not keep looking at the scoreboard worrying about if the wheels are going to fall off," Roustio said. "I thought our guys did exactly what they needed to do."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.