Fast starts launch Alton past O'Fallon

News-DemocratMarch 1, 2014 

— The Alton Redbirds final tune-up before the start of the Class 4A postseason went off without a hitch Friday at the Panther Dome.

Host O'Fallon meanwhile, was left at the starting line.

De'Antae McMurray and Darrius Edwards connected on 3-pointers in the first two minutes to ignite a 10-2 start and Alton never looked back as it wrapped up its regular season with a 70-54 win over O'Fallon in a Southwestern Conference game.

Playing with its full lineup for the first time since the seventh game of the season, Alton (10-4, 22-5) hit its first four shots and six of its first nine, while using its quickness to force four O'Fallon turnovers.

With McMurray and Edwards scoring five points apiece, the Redbirds led 15-6 after one quarter and 29-24 at halftime before putting the game away with a 20-9 spurt in the third period.

"This was like a final tune-up before we start the postseason next week and it was actually the first time in a long time that we've had our full lineup. I'm not saying we're fully healthy, but at least we had everybody here,'' Alton coach Eric Smith said. "We hit some shots early and that was good to see.

"This was a pretty good team we beat here tonight. But we're good too.''

Edwards led Alton with 15 points while Carlos Anderson added 13. But the key was the Redbirds' depth, as they used their speed and athleticism to force 15 O'Fallon turnovers.

"They (Alton) have the total package. They're quick, they've got good size, they rebound well and they're just so athletic. They're a handful for anybody to handle,'' Panthers coach Rick Gibson said. "I felt the keys were to keep the turnovers down and keep them off the boards. We just didn't check off very well.

"We gave them way too many second and third shots.''

O'Fallon did have its moments.

With Donovan Franklin scoring 12 of his 16 points in the first half and Chance Armstrong tallying 10 points in the second quarter, the Panthers (17-11) had cut an 11-point deficit to five by halftime.

But 3s from Carlos Anderson and Josh Lovings early in the third quarter keyed a 9-2 run as Alton opened a 14-point lead.

The Redbirds' advantage reached 20 points late in the period, before it settled for a 49-33 lead heading into the final quarter.

"This isn't the type of game you want to have going into the postseason,'' Gibson said. "We've got to put this one behind us and get ready for the regional this coming week.''

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