Houston junior Michael Clayton is greeted by teammate Gavin Alston, left, as he is introduced for Tuesday's game against Alton inside Hiett Gymnasium.

With the holiday break here for his team, first-year Houston coach Rod Gorman has an evaluation for the Tigers.

“The assessment is we’re much improved,” Gorman said. “We’re battling and getting better every day. I’m really proud of who they are and that I’m their coach.

“Do we have a long way to go? You bet. I don’t know how quick we can get there. It’s a process.”

Houston is 2-6 at the Christmas break following a hard-fought 57-44 defeat Tuesday night to Alton inside Hiett Gymnasium.

The Tigers were as close as five points down with 2 minutes, 22 seconds remaining before Alton ended the game with a 13-5 run to pull away.

“I thought we did some good things,” Gorman said, “but we made some mental errors.”

Houston senior Riley Cavaness surveys the court in the first half of Tuesday’s game against Alton.

Houston stayed close behind the hot shooting of senior Riley Cavaness, who made four 3-pointers and scored a team-high 17 points off the bench. Lucas Kelley added 12 as the only other player in double figures.

Gorman said he was proud of the way his team bounced back after a lopsided 61-28 loss the previous night at Plato.

“We went to Plato and gave in,” Gorman said. “Tonight we didn’t have any give in.”

Houston fell behind 10-4 early before getting a spark from Cavaness. He drilled a triple on the next possession, and HHS pulled even at 12-all when Kelley connected from downtown.

Alton extended its advantage to double figures at 30-20 before Cavaness drilled another 3-pointers to make it a seven-point game at the half. He accounted for 13 of the Tigers’ 23 first-half points.

“Tonight was his night,” Gorman said. “I told the guys the reason we were competitive was because of Riley.”

Trailing 44-34 with 3:54 remaining, Houston cut the deficit in half when Kelley converted a three-point play and senior Tayler Ward turned a steal into a transition layin. Ward’s basket pulled the Tigers within 44-39 with 2:22 left.

But on the next play, Alton’s Caleb Steele converted a three-point play as HHS attempted to apply fullcourt pressure.

Steele, a returning all-state selection, led all scorers with 25 points.

“We cut it to five and probably should have just gotten back and guarded,” Gorman said. “We tried to trap the ball and they got a three-point play out of it. That was tough.”

Gorman said scoring more points is a focus for the team at the break. Houston is averaging 39.6 points per game and has eclipsed the 50-point barrier once in eight games.

The Tigers return to the court Monday afternoon to face Seymour in the Cabool Holiday Tournament.

“We’re trying to run some motion, continuity and sets,” Gorman said. “We’ve got to make more baskets. We have an emphasis to score more points.”

JUNIOR VARSITY: Paydon Dixon led three players in double figures with 17 points as the JV Tigers rallied past Alton 49-44 Tuesday night.

Clayton Moore added 14 points and Noah Moseley had 13 for Houston, which trailed 19-12 at the half.

BOX SCORES

VARSITY

Alton 15 15 8 19 – 57

Houston 12 11 7 14 – 44

HOUSTON (44) – Kyler Ramsey 4. Michael Clayton 1. Clayton Moore 2. Riley Cavaness 17. Ty McCloud 5. Lucas Kelley 12. Tayler Ward 3. FG 13. FT 13-22. F 18. (3-pointers: Cavaness 4, Kelley. Fouled out: Ward.)

JUNIOR VARSITY

Alton 6 13 13 12 – 44

Houston 7 5 18 19 – 49

HOUSTON (49) – Kyler Ramsey 2. Dakota Burchett 3. Clayton Moore 14. Paydon Dixon 17. Noah Moseley 13. FG 19. FT 6-11. F 15. (3-pointers: Dixon 3, Moore 2. Fouled out: Dixon.)

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