BELLEVILLE — It's been a consistent theme in Belleville West's season, and it reared its head again Friday.
The Maroons allowed a 14-0 run by Alton in the second quarter and it proved to be the difference in the Redbirds' 52-43 victory in a Southwestern Conference game.
The Redbirds (12-1 overall, 5-0 SWC) turned a 16-14 deficit into a 28-16 lead during a stretch of 3 minutes, 47 seconds. Although the Maroons (3-8, 1-4) rallied late and were in position to tie the game, it came as small consolation to coach Joe Muniz.
"We were this close," said Muniz, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. "We've had bad stretches. Some days, it's the third quarter. Some days, it's the second quarter."
It's the kind of instability Muniz could learn to live without. The Maroons, for the most part, have played well defensively, but scoring has been an issue.
Juniors Eugene Jones (13 points) and first-time starter Demond White (11) reached double figures, but West was 17-for-50 from the field (34) percent and 3-for-19 on 3-pointers (16 percent). The Maroons also were guilty of 19 turnovers.
"The thing about tonight's game that's more frustrating than anything is we got a lot of good shots," Muniz said. "They just didn't go in the hole. We missed seven or eight layups --uncontested layups --in the first half. To beat a team like Alton, you can't miss those. That's 14 points right there."
Alton received a game-high 17 points from senior point guard Michael Williams-Bey. Senior De'Antae McMurray and junior Darrius Edwards scored nine points apiece.
The Redbirds, ranked eighth in Class 4A, were 18-for-53 from the field (34 percent) and 3-for-17 on 3-pointers (18 percent).
But they bagged their second win in a little over 24 hours, coming off a 57-40 victory over Quincy on Thursday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
"We're blue-collar," Alton coach Eric Smith said of his team's sporadic performance. "Every once in a while, we get away from the dirty work, but that's who we have to be. If we're going to be successful, we've got to be a lunch-pail kind of team."
There have been flashes of promise for West. After taking the Redbirds' second-quarter punch and trailing by 12, the Maroons scored the final seven points of the half to trail 28-23 at the break.
The most dazzling play came in the waning seconds, as senior Steven Roberts made a behind-the-back dribble to elude two defenders in the backcourt, then found senior Cade Dibadj open in the left corner. Dibadj's rainbow 3-pointer hit nothing but net and drew the Maroons within five.
"Cade hitting that 3 at the buzzer was huge," Muniz said. "It was good execution on Steven's part, good execution on Cade's part. Give credit to those guys for making that play. We just need more of that. We need guys doing anything they can."
Smith was displeased with his players' lack of focus.
"We took a play off," he said. "That was a three-point swing and it gave them all kinds of momentum, energy and life. They were running out of the gym jumping up and down. It gave them a boost. You just can't take plays off."
Alton led 36-27 in the third quarter after McMurray scored at the 4:18 mark. But the Maroons narrowed the gap to 38-33 entering the fourth quarter and suddenly were within 43-40 when Dibadj banked in a runner from the left side of the lane with 3:10 to play.
The Maroons then had a chance to tie the game, but Jones' wide-open 3 from the right wing rimmed out. Alton responded by scoring seven of the next nine points.
A key play for the Redbirds came when they rebounded a missed free throw by Edwards, and it turned into a dunk by 6-foot-7 junior Bryan Hudson that gave Alton a 49-42 lead with 54 seconds left.
Hudson, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds against Quincy, was held to seven points by West, which threw big, strong bodies at him in 6-4 senior Cole Henke and 6-5 freshman Tyler Dancy.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.