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ALTON - Coming off a tough game in a 64-58 loss to Springfield Southeast on Friday, Alton Redbirds head coach Eric Smith was concerned about how much his team had in the tank for another go-around against the Belleville East Lancers the following night.

The Redbirds would have plenty of energy.

After an even start to the game, Alton ended the first half on a 14-0 run, dominated the Lancers in the second half led by strong performances yet again by Donovan Clay and Malik Smith spurred the Redbirds to a 73-51 victory in a Southwestern Conference contest.

Alton moves to 17-9 and 5-3 in the SWC.

“That’s our big worry,” Eric Smith said. “Emotion night on Friday and can you come back and play with some energy? We started the game bouncing all over the place and then got up a bit and had a lull, but the kids responded pretty well.”

Clay and Smith both finished with a game-high 21 points. Moory Woods and Andrew Jones each tallied eight points. Eric Smith was pleased to get contributions from the likes of Randy Butler and Jamarkus Gary in the first half, who’ve had limited key minutes for most of the season.

“[Clay and Smith] did pretty well tonight, but we got contributions from a ton of kids,” Smith said. “Lots of kids stepped in and did their jobs. Randy Butler came in and did a wonderful job. That’s the kind of things we’ve asked our kids to do by gaining some trust in practice.”

Belleville East falls to 9-15 and 2-6 in the SWC.

Senior guard Malik Williams led the Lancers with 12 and Isaiah May followed with 11. Freshman Braxton Stacker added ten points, and Bryson Ivy contributed nine.

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Alton got out to a fast start and led 11-2, but after calling a timeout, East would outscore them 11-3 to cut the lead to 14-13 heading into the second quarter.

The Lancers, who previously lost to the Redbirds 73-61 Dec 18, were right with them halfway through the second quarter. Malik Williams gave East the lead 25-24, but that’s when Alton stamped their authority.

A layup by Clay put Alton up for good at 26-25, which was followed by a three-pointer by Smith. The half was capped by a baseline triple by Gary at the buzzer, which gave the Redbirds a 37-25 lead.

“We’re a team of spurts,” Eric Smith said. “The big question for us is how can we extend those longer and cut down on the bad times.”

Alton ended up outscoring East 36-7 and stretched their lead to as big as 28. They also entertained the home crowd with an array of dunks by Clay. Woods nearly brought the house down out of nowhere with a one-handed jam over a leaping Lancer that resulted in an and-one.

That didn’t surprise his coach.

“We were doing a drill this afternoon in our walk-through. [Moory] went up and dunked and I said: “why can’t you do that in a game?” Smith said. Obviously, he responded tonight. It was a nice play.”

Alton won’t play until next Friday when they travel to face Collinsville (22-3) for the second time this season after defeating them 59-57 on a buzzer beater.

“Friday’s a big night,” Smith said. “A regional seed. A conference place. Obviously, they felt like we stole one from them the last time. We expect it to be a barn burner.”

Chris Rhodes also contributed to this story.

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