Batavia falls to Alton in championship game of Morton tourney

Alton had a simple but effective game plan for Saturday’s showdown against Batavia.

On Friday night, the Redbirds watched Batavia senior point guard Brooke Carlson torch highly ranked Fremd for 39 points.

The Redbirds elected to speed up the Bulldogs, while also sending a wave of different defenders at Carlson in an attempt to tire her out.

The plan worked in the second half.

Carlson was held five points under her season average, finishing with 15 points in a 57-39 loss in the championship game of the third annual Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament.

In the first quarter, the Bulldogs (14-3) were still riding the euphoria from Carlson’s highlight-filled explosion against Fremd. The Redbirds (15-0) made the nearly five-hour trek fruitful, holding the Colorado State recruit to five points – all via the free throw line in the third quarter – in the second half.

Carlson shot 5-of-20 from the floor, hitting two 3-pointers and collecting five assists and six rebounds to be named the tournament Most Valuable Player. Alton junior forward Jarius Powers scored a game-high 16 points.

“I learned I need to slow down and take control of my game,” Carlson said. “I feel they took me out of my game. That was a big thing. I feel my energy was down, so that affected the whole team. This will help us. I felt we needed to get knocked down to hopefully come back on top. It’s amazing what we did. We showed we can play with anybody.”

Alton coach Deserea Howard, a Homewood-Flossmoor graduate, credited her team for playing tough defense on Carlson and her teammates. The Redbirds forced 20 turnovers, plus attacked the offensive glass for second-chance points and got Carlson into foul trouble in the second half.

The Redbirds used four different defenders on Carlson, which played a role in her picking up her fourth foul with 5:42 left in regulation. The Redbirds turned a six-point advantage into a 47-37 lead by the time Carlson returned to the floor.

“We knew we had multiple people who specialized in defense,” Howard said. “We used all of them tonight. (Carlson) was everybody’s problem, so we knew if she got loose, we had to switch on her. Our goal was to keep her under 20 points. We executed our plan.”

Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said Saturday’s game against the speedy and athletic Redbirds was a learning experience.

“The speed of the game got us, especially in the last few minutes,” Jensen. “We were going little faster than we wanted to. That showed with a couple of shots that rimmed out that we normally make and passes got little quick or early. We were off a bit, but that’s what Alton’s speed level does. I couldn’t be more prouder of what they did. It was a heck of a run.”

In the first quarter, Batavia scored the first seven points, but Alton answered with eight consecutive points. The Bulldogs struggled holding onto the ball, committing seven turnovers in an 11-possession stretch that allowed Alton to get back into the game.

Carlson, who opened the game with two assists on the first two trips down the court, scored on a three-point play for a 14-10 lead. The Redbirds erased a 17-12 deficit with a 10-5 run to close out the first half in a 22-22 tie.

The Redbirds relied on their interior depth to slowly build a lead in the second half, wearing down the Bulldogs by hitting the glass.

Batavia senior guard Kylee Gehrt, who had eight points, said her team can grow from the tough defeat.

“This whole tournament we stuck with all these tough teams,” she said. “We had some close games, but today it was just the fourth quarter. We need to learn from this, and hopefully we get a second chance against them.”

  Batavia’s Brooke Carlson, left, draws contact from Alton’s Justice Hayes during the championship game of the Morton College basketball tournament Saturday December 30, 2023 in Cicero. Joe Lewnard/
  Batavia’s Brooke Carlson, right, attempts a shot against the defense of Alton’s Jarius Powers during the championship game of the Morton College basketball tournament Saturday December 30, 2023 in Cicero. Joe Lewnard/
  Batavia’s Addie Prewitt, right, drives to the basket against Alton’s Kiyoko Proctor during the championship game of the Morton College basketball tournament Saturday December 30, 2023 in Cicero. Joe Lewnard/
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