In another key Southwestern Conference game for the East St. Louis Flyers, junior Karon Randolph again created separation.
Randolph made back-to-back 3-pointers 27 seconds apart in the fourth quarter Tuesday to break open a tight game and spark East Side to a 67-58 victory over Alton.
The victory, the Flyers’ second this season over the Redbirds, improved their record to 12-5 overall and 7-0 in the league.
“I read in the paper that the Edwardsville coach (Mike Waldo) said ... I really couldn’t shoot,” said Randolph, whose consecutive 3-pointers against the Tigers lifted the visiting Flyers to a 57-40 victory on Jan. 6. “I had to prove it to them. It makes me work hard.”
Count the Redbirds (13-3, 5-2) among the ranks of believers.
“To the kid’s credit, he stepped up and knocked down a couple of shots,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “A little bit of it, too, was the fact they walked across halfcourt, made one pass and threw the ball to him, and he shot. We were in the right position, but we weren’t paying attention. Those are the lapses that put us where we’re at.”
Alton, which lost 59-58 to the Flyers on Dec. 5 in Godfrey, will need help to overtake East St. Louis in the conference.
Randolph led the Flyers, who were playing their fourth game in five days, with 19 points. Junior Patrick Baxter had 11. Jeremiah Tilmon, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, started for the first time in three games because of a hyperextended knee and scored four points.
“That’s a good battle game,” Flyers coach Tony Young said. “Those dudes come out and they play hard, man. I don’t know how many turnovers we had (11), but I know they got after us right away. Our kids handled the pressure well and we kept attacking. We were poised, and that was a big thing for us – to be poised and not have silly turnovers.”
Alton, which committed 21 turnovers, was led by senior Darrius Edwards’ 23 points. Senior Bryan Hudson and sophomore Maurice Edwards had 12 points apiece and senior Carlos Anderson, a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit, had 11.
The Redbirds played without senior guard Isaiah Thurmond, who was sidelined with a knee injury. The extent of the injury will not be known until Thurmond undergoes tests this week.
“We missed him a lot,” Smith said. “He does a lot of stuff for us. He’s probably been our most consistent kid on both ends of the floor. He’s not necessarily been our leading scorer, but the last time we played East Side, he was pretty good. He was not afraid, he handled the basketball and he went at Tilmon. He was a big difference.”
There were four dunks in the first half, which ended with the Flyers holding a four-point lead at 33-29 on a basket by Randolph with 18 seconds left. Alton had just eight points and one basket in the second quarter.
East Side stretched its lead to 36-31 on a free throw by senior Tyrone Riley (nine ponits) with 5:19 to play in the third quarter. The Redbirds took a 47-46 lead on a driving layup by Maurice Edwards, but the Flyers led 50-49 at the end of the period.
Alton took its final lead of 51-50 on a dunk by Hudson with 6:57 to play in the game. With East Side leading 57-53, Randolph struck with his big shots, the first at the 4:13 mark and the second with 3:46 remaining, to make it 63-53 and culminate a 9-0 run.
“He’s playing with confidence, and that’s the biggest thing,” Young said of the 6-4 Randolph. “Everybody keeps saying he can’t shoot it; don’t guard him. I’m 100 percent fine with that. Don’t guard him. We watch it every day. You’re supposed to shoot open shots. You’re supposed to make open shots.”
Tilmon injured his knee Friday in a win over Granite City and didn’t play Saturday in a loss to Normal in the Highland Shootout. He played sparingly Monday in a victory over Madison Prep before making the start against the Redbirds.
“I thought he did good; I thought he did well,” Young said. “It’s not what I want. I’m never satisfied. That goes for all of them. So if you ask me how he played, I’m going to say he played hard. He did some things good. But he’s got to give us more. That goes for everybody.”