For a little more than 28 minutes Friday night, Collinsville did virtually everything necessary to put itself in position to defeat Alton.
It’s how the final 90-plus seconds of each half played out that was the difference in the Redbirds coming away with a 69-60 Southwestern Conference victory.
Tied at 58, Alton outscored the Kahoks 11-2 over the final 1:39 of the game to come away with the win.
That followed on the heels of a first half where Alton scored the final eight points to give itself an 35-27 advantage going into the break.
“Things did not go our way at those times,” said Collinsville coach Darin Lee of the end of the second and fourth quarters.
“We had to get some stops (at the end),” said Lee, referring to the game’s final 1:39. “We needed to play some transition defense and keep them off the free-throw line.
“We missed some free throws. ... We just did not work hard enough on defense to get the job done.”
As the Kahoks did come back to tie the game, it was that final stretch that made the difference.
A pair of free throws from Kevin Caldwell gave Alton a 60-58 lead with 1:39 to play.
Next time down, following a Ray’Sean Taylor miss, a Josh Rivers bucket made it 62-58. The Redbirds would keep the Kahoks at arm’s length by draining six more free throws.
A Braeden Lemp basket with 25.9 seconds remaining — making it 64-60 Alton — provided the only points from the final nine times Collinsville had the ball.
The Kahoks also missed three free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one, in that span.
“We need to do a little bit better the first couple of minutes (of the half), but the kids did a nice job,” said Alton coach Eric Smith, whose team improved to 14-8 and 8-3 in the SWC.
Alton junior Malik Smith did everything he could to make sure the Redbirds had an opportunity at the end.
The 6-foot-3 forward scored a game-high 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field.
His biggest moments came when he scored the final six points of the first half, punctuating it with a one-handed slam off a Collinsville turnover just three seconds before the buzzer.
“I was just waiting for that,” said Smith. “I was just waiting for him to pass it back (after the turnover). I telegraphed it good, got the tip and was able to dunk it.”
Smith continued his scoring spree when he tallied the first basket of the second half to put Alton up 37-27.
But the Kahoks would fight their way back into it, at one point scoring on six straight third-quarter possessions with Taylor and Marshall Harrison doing all of the damage, and eventually tied it at 53 with 3:46 to go.
But that didn’t prevent the game from swinging back Alton’s way when it counted.
Taylor topped Collinsville with 25 points while Harrison finished with 14. No other Collinsville player scored more than seven.
Caldwell, who scored 31 points in the Redbirds’ 81-75 overtime win over the Kahoks on Dec. 15 in Godfrey, had 18 points. Donovan Clay added 10 for the Redbirds to go with a game-high 10 rebounds.
“It’s not like we didn’t play well offensively. We scored 60 points,” said Lee, whose team dropped to 15-10 and 3-7. “But they did a real good job of running the floor and driving to the basket.
“We needed to get 11 (Clay) and 13 (Smith) stopped, and we did not do it. The last time it was all No. 2 (Caldwell). ... Last time it was overtime, this one was also tight. Thirty-one minutes into the game it could have gone either way.”