Alton senior Donovan Clay and the Alton Redbirds were up to the challenge on Friday at Vergil Fletcher Gymnasium.
The Collinsville Kahoks were not.
Using his size and athleticism to frustrate high-scoring Collinsville junior Ray’Sean Taylor, the 6-7 Clay was the dominant player on the court as he led the Redbirds to a 58-48 win in the title game of the Class 4A Collinsville Regional tournament.
Beaten on the same Vergil Fletcher Gymnasium court 75-61 just two weeks ago, Alton (23-10) jumped out to a 17-12 first-quarter lead and never trailed as they held Taylor and the Kahoks in check the entire night.
Clay, whose game-high 20 points included three show-stopping dunks, was all over the 6-1 Taylor has he held the Kahoks star to 10 points, nearly 11 below his season average.
The 10 points were Taylor’s lowest total of the season.
“It was my size,” Clay said. “I’m long and lean and quick enough to stay with him (Taylor). If he got past me I wanted to make sure I was there to block his shots. This means a lot. To come in here and beat a great team like Collinsville ... It’s just a very big win.’’
The win moves Alton in to the East Moline United Sectional semifinals on Tuesday where they will take on the defending Class 4A state champion Belleville West Maroons.
West (29-4), which defeated Chatham-Glenwood to win the Belleville West Regional on Friday, defeated Alton in two of three meetings this season. The West-Alton sectional semifinal game will be played at Edwardsville High School at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
With Clay and Andrew Jones combining for 12 first-quarter points on Friday, Alton took the early momentum, and Collinsville (27-6) never recovered. The Kahoks tied the game at 21-21 midway in the second quarter on a basket by Keydrian Jones, but Alton senior Josh Rivers buried a three-point jumper on the next possession to give his team the lead for good.
Alton ended the first half on a 10-4 scoring run and led 31-25 at intermission. Collinsville would never get even again.
“We didn’t really do anything different on defense than we did the last time we played them,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “We rebounded a little bit better. What we did do better was that we didn’t get involved in some of the extra things this time like we did when we played them two weeks ago. We kept our focus a lot better tonight.
“We didn’t shoot the basketball very well early. But we’ve been in every game this year because we play hard. These kids played their tails off.’’
Having trouble containing Clay and the Redbirds, Collinsville switched defenses in the second half. But on a night when the shots wouldn’t fall, the Kahoks were unable to make any kind of sustained offensive charge at mounting a comeback.
“We just couldn’t sustain any offense,’’ a dejected Collinsville coach Darin Lee said. “And we were not patient enough to get anything else to run for Ray-Sean (Taylor) We haven’t done a very good job of knocking down jump shots here these last couple weeks of the season.’’
Senior Malik Smith added 12 points for Alton, while junior Cawhan Smith led Collinsville with 12.