GODFREY — East St. Louis senior Deshawn Munson did everything he could Friday to make sure first-year coach Tony Young's Southwestern Conference debut was a successful one.
But Munson needed a little help from his friends to get the job done.
Showing the maturity and poise of a three-year starter, Munson successfully directed the Flyers' offense from his point-guard position and scored 16 points as East St. Louis survived a late scare for a 70-60 victory over Alton.
The Flyers (2-2), getting 14 points from 6-foot-4, 260-pound Johnny McCray, led by as many as 18 points in the first half and 44-30 at halftime.
But Alton, playing its first conference game under its first-year coach Eric Smith, chipped away throughout the final two quarters.
Getting 20 points from senior guard Tyrone Parker, the Redbirds (2-3) cut the Flyers' lead to 66-60 with 48 seconds remaining on a basket by Derrick Thurmond.
But a pair of free throws by Flyers senior Travon McCray with 27 seconds left all but iced the win.
Young, although happy with the win, wasn't thrilled with the way his team played down the stretch.
"I'm happy that we won, but we made things more difficult for ourselves with some ill-advised passes and shots. We've still got a lot of work do,'' Young said. "The thing I liked is that we didn't quit when things got tough and they (Alton) cut the lead on us.
"That (Alton) is a great team. They kept coming at us all night long.''
For Smith and the Redbirds, the game was much like their four previous contests. Alton played well at times, but couldn't maintain that level for any significant stretch.
"It actually was a carbon-copy of our previous games," Smith said. "We played very well in spurts again. Against a team like East St. Louis, and actually any team in the Southwestern Conference, you are not going to win playing in spurts.
"I thought that despite our lack of size we did a good job on the boards, but we've got to do a better job of getting back on defense. They got a lot of easy ones on us by beating us down the floor in the first half."
With McCray and Munson combining for 15 of the Flyers' 25 second-quarter points, East St. Louis stretched its lead from two points to 17 in a six-minute span when it outscored Alton 19-4.
Munson, who tallied seven of his 16 points during that span, also handed our three assists during the period.
"Deshawn's a better passer than people think. He made some good passes tonight,'' Young said. "If Deshawn looks more poised and mature on the court, it's because he's choosing to do so.
"I've been working with him every day on becoming a leader, both on and off the basketball court.''
The Flyers committed 27 turnovers, but made up for it with their shooting. East St. Louis finished the game 26 of 42 from the floor.