While high school players sometimes have trouble recognizing the historic nature of what they accomplish, that wasn’t the case Tuesday night for the Granite City Warriors.
Granite City reached the 13-win mark for the first time since 1999-2000, dismissing O’Fallon 65-44 in a Southwestern Conference game that saw Traron Allen and Kenny Berry combine for 43 points.
Allen finished with 22 and Berry had 21 as the Warriors (13-11 overall, 6-5 in the SWC) also feasted on 21 turnovers by O’Fallon (7-16, 2-9).
“I told our guys there’s no motivation I can give you for tonight’s game other than to tell you that Granite City hasn’t won 13 basketball games in 16 years,” said Granite City coach Steve Roustio, whose first seven teams won a combined 54 games heading into this season. “That in and of itself should be enough motivation, to be part of a ball club that’s won more games that they have in several seasons here.”
Granite City’s last winning record in boys basketball was a 17-9 mark in 1986-87.
Berry, averaging more than 20 points, said the Warriors were simply tired of losing.
“For me, Tra(ron) and Ron (Allen), it’s a lot of experience on the varsity,” Berry said. “Over time we got mentally tougher. We know what it takes to win and we know what it takes to lose. We just play hard throughout everything.
“There’s a lot of motivation to (not) keep just taking losing, not getting a win and not getting rewarded for how you work We just kept working hard to get better and that’s the result.”
Along with the big nights by Allen and Berry Jake Roustio added 10 points for Granite City. O’Fallon got 11 from Ronald Anthony and nine points each from Ryan Fulton and Lucas Hackmann.
The final score didn’t indicate a second-half surge by O’Fallon that saw the Panthers cut the Warriors’ lead from 17 points to five. Hackmann drained a pair of long 3-pointers during the stretch and O’Fallon cut the deficit to 45-40 before Granite City put things away.
A 9-0 run midway through the first half allowed the Warriors to pull away just as Berry was heating up. Getting some of his point off steals, Berry racked up 10 of his 12 first-half points during the second quarter and Allen netted 11 during the half.
The Warriors pushed their lead to 32-15 at one point and led 32-19 at halftime.
Berry had 17 of his 21 points during the second and fourth quarters, each time sending his team on a decisive run.
“He’s done that off and on all year,” Coach Roustio said. “When he’s on the court, there’s times this year I’ve noticed where a lead goes from six to 11 off of maybe a defensive rebound and they don’t stop him in transition, then the next thing you know he gets a steal and makes the layup or sets someone up for a layup.
“He can score in bunches like that.”
Highland was not about to let an opportunity to clinch a share of the conference crown slip away against rival Triad Tuesday in Troy. The Bulldogs led wire-to-wire and were never threatened after the first two minutes of the second quarter en route to posting a domineering victory over the host Knights in Troy.
Highland senior Austin Elledge dumped in a game-high 24 points while senior Chris Dickman notched a career-best 13 points, senior Luke Thies added 12 points to lead the Bulldogs to a repeat of the Mississippi Valley Conference championship. It is also Highland’s fourth league title in the past five years.
“The boys shot the ball pretty well tonight, we got the ball inside and Chris Dickman had a great game for us tonight,” Highland coach Matt Elledge said. “We needed him to step up and do some things and he did it for us. He attacked the basket, got some rebounds for us and did some things for us, so we’re happy to get that going because he can really help us down the stretch here.”
Highland (14-12 overall, 8-0 MVC) remained perfect in the league and has two chances to win the MVC outright, the first shot coming Friday night at Jerseyville (13-13. 5-2).