EAST ST. LOUIS — Making his Southwestern Conference debut, Alton guard Mike Williams-Bey literally stole the show Friday at East St. Louis High School.
Displaying the deft hands of a pick-pocket, Williams-Bey had nine steals -- the last one coming with under 12 seconds remaining -- as Alton opened Southwestern Conference play with a 59-57 win.
Trailing by as many as six points in the fourth quarter, East St. Louis closed to with 57-54 with 21.7 seconds remaining.
But like he did much of the night against a befuddled Flyers' backcourt, Williams-Bey stripped a Flyers player of the ball.
Fouled with seven seconds left, Williams-Bey made two free throws to give the Redbirds (4-0, 1-0 SWC) a five-point lead.
Flyers junior Terry Beckner made a 3-point shot with under a second left, but it was too little as East St. Louis fell short in its home opener.
And it was Williams-Bey, a transfer from Marquette, who probably played the biggest role in the victory.
"Our guards are very athletic and quick and they have the ability to create turnovers, like they did tonight,'' Redbirds coach Eric Smith said. "I thought they did -- and we as a team --did a good job of holding our composure in a somewhat hostile environment tonight.
"Coming in here and beating a quality team like East St. Louis on its home floor is big for our kids.''
Williams-Bey and Darrius Edwards paced Alton with 14 points apiece. Carlos Anderson added 13 and Bryan Hudson chipped in 10 for the Redbirds.
East St. Louis (3-2, 0-1) got 15 points from Darrion Beane and 13 from Beckner. But the Flyers were doomed by their 29 turnovers, many of which were forced by a quick Redbirds' backcourt led by Williams-Bey and DeTae McMurray, another transfer from Marquette.
"We had 29 turnovers. That's just entirely way too many,'' Flyers coach Anthony Young said. "We've got to do a better job against pressure and it's something that we -- and I-- have to work on as a team.
"Alton played well. They wanted it more than we did tonight. We did some good things too. I just wish we would have played with the same energy the entire night that we did in the last three minutes. It would have been a different game if we did.''
With freshman Jeremiah Tilman and Beane combining for eight points, the Flyers led by as many as six before settling for a 15-12 lead after one quarter.
But with Williams-Bey racking up an amazing five steals in the second quarter, the Redbirds started to take control and would go into halftime with a 33-29 lead.
It was more of the same in the final two quarters as the Flyers continued to struggle against Alton's pressure.
East St. Louis, led by the 6-foot, 5-inch, 265-pound Beckner, tied the game at 46 early in the fourth quarter, but with Anderson and Williams-Bey combining for 11 points, Alton held on down the stretch.