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Birchler's 21 leads Red Bud past Steeleville

  • Red Bud's Alex Birchler (center) looks to slash to the basket while being defended by Steeleville's Owen Gross (left) and Eli Wittenborn (right) in Red Bud's 44-36 win over the Warriors on Tuesday.

    Red Bud's Alex Birchler (center) looks to slash to the basket while being defended by Steeleville's Owen Gross (left) and Eli Wittenborn (right) in Red Bud's 44-36 win over the Warriors on Tuesday.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

  • Steeleville's Eli Wittenborn tries to put up a shot while being fouled by Red Bud's Alex Sievers (32).

    Steeleville's Eli Wittenborn tries to put up a shot while being fouled by Red Bud's Alex Sievers (32).
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

 
 
updated: 12/6/2017 5:17 PM

Playing their new Kaskaskia Division rival for the second time in four days, the Steeleville Warriors saw turnovers get the better of them in the rematch on Tuesday.

Alex Birchler led the way with 21 points, and Red Bud picked up a key conference win with a 44-36 victory on the Warriors' home floor.

"Offensively, we got off to a better start," said Red Bud coach C.J. Cruser. "We went 10 minutes without scoring (in the previous meeting) and (Dec. 5) we went 20 seconds.

"That just sets the tone so much differently."

In the teams' first meeting on Dec. 1 during the Murphysboro/Trico tournament, Steeleville shut out Red Bud in the first quarter, 12-0, as part of a 32-25 win. The victory allowed the Warriors to advance to the tournament's third place game, where they lost to Chester.

"The fact that we were able to do some things offensively that we weren't able to do last time," Cruser said on the difference between the two games. "We took much better care of the basketball. We've still only had one practice since last week, but that one practice we were able to get enough ironed out to get through tonight."

A big difference was the presence of Birchler, who didn't play in the teams' first meeting. All but four of the Red Bud senior's points came in the second half.

"A lot of heart, a lot of passion," Cruser said on what Birchler brings to the team. "You can see it when he's feeling it. You can see the drive and desire and he kicks it up another notch himself."

Red Bud (4-2, 1-0 Kaskaskia Division) jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, but Steeleville put together a 13-2 run to take a 15-10 advantage on a 3-pointer from Gavin Conway with 4:26 left in the second quarter.

Steeleville (3-4, 1-1) remained in charge until Birchler started to take over in the third quarter. With Birchler providing 10 of his points in the frame, Red Bud erased its deficit and took a 28-23 lead into the fourth quarter.

"Without a doubt, it was our turnovers and our rebounding," Fiene said on what he viewed as the difference in the two contests. "I expected us to miss shots with our seventh game in nine nights, but we can still defend.

"We defended OK, we just didn't rebound the ball (and) made bad decisions with our turnovers."

Steeleville trailed by only a point, 33-32, after a Mel Mulholland layup following a Red Bud turnover, but four straight points from Birchler gave Red Bud a 37-32 advantage with 3:38 left in the game.

The Warriors never got closer than four the rest of the way.

Owen Gross, on an off night, led Steeleville with 10 points one night after pouring in 23 in a win over Valmeyer. Noah Valleroy added nine points and Conway contributed five.

"Our legs are tired, we're going to take (Wednesday) and rest and watch video and try to get recovered," Fiene said. "It's a hard way to start the season, but it is what it is and we're going to learn and get better from that."