Boys Basketball Maintains Status as Most Improved Team in SWC


Maxwell Thrun

Junior Malik Allen dribbles past an Alton defender at EHS on Jan. 13. The Tigers won 57-40.

Jalen Flowers, Staff writer

No team in the Southwestern conference is as hot as the boys basketball team. The Tigers stand at third in the Southwestern Conference behind O’Fallon and East St. Louis. But the team holds the longest win streak in the conference, winning six straight games. 

“We just caught fire,” head coach Dustin Battas said. “We’re a tough team to stop when we start rolling like that.” 

The Tigers entered the 2023 season 2-4, with three of those losses being lopsided games against local opponents. This midseason resurgence for the team was strengthened by those losses, as the team continues to prove that the beginning of the year does not represent their talent.

“I didn’t like the way we started the season,” coach Battas said. “There was no capitalizing off opportunities for us. We needed to make a statement not only to our conference but to ourselves.”

Last year, the Tigers finished 11-19, going 4-8 in their conference. They suffered a six-game losing streak during the season and failed to score over 50 in all 19 losses. Battas credits the underperforming in the past to a lack of belief among his team.

“Confidence is the biggest part of going on a streak like that,” Battas said. “After the start we had, I just kept preaching confidence to our guys. I think that’s the main catalyst for our recent success.”

This year, no team in the conference has shown as much improvement as the Tigers down the stretch. Winning the turnover differential in all six wins on their streak and winning the rebound, assist and blocks battle has given the squad a spark. Multiple players scored in double digits in January, such as juniors Malik Allen, Jake Curry and AJ Tillman, along with seniors Isaiah Kolster and Jonathan Stump.

“It’s always fun competing with the guys,” Curry said. “I’m excited to see what we can do once we get to the playoffs.”

This offseason, the team enforced a more focused practice environment. The importance of offseason workouts and weight training was encouraged by the coaching staff and sustained by the players. From early summer to late fall, the Tigers practiced the effort that led them to success during the season. 

 “We started practicing with more intensity,” senior forward Johnnie Robinson said. “It gets us ready for our tough schedule and conference play.” 

Robinson was a member of the disappointing 2021-2022 team, which never reached a streak of over three wins.

“This year we just have more senior leadership and chemistry,” Robinson said. “We didn’t really have that last year. You can tell we are all rooting for each other at games or during practice.”

In January, the team faced five conference opponents and participated in a tournament. With the postseason starting at the end of February, the Tigers greeted January with chemistry and selflessness to prepare themselves for the emotions of the postseason.

“We’ve got a group of guys who compete regardless of their grade,” Battas said. “Seniors like Montrez West, juniors like Jake Curry and sophomores like Kris Crosby. Everybody comes to work ready to challenge each other.”