BELLEVILLE — Althoff senior Erik Furmanek may have traded in his football cleats for a pair of high-priced Nike's, but he proved once again Friday that he has a nose for the ball.
Furmanek helped strip the ball from Carbondale junior Elijah Bidinger in the final seven seconds to preserve the Crusaders' 75-73 win in a South Seven Conference game.
With Althoff holding a 74-73 lead with 13.2 seconds remaining, junior Kevin Renner made one of two free throws to increase the Crusaders' margin.
The Terriers (5-3, 1-2 South Seven) advanced the ball to midcourt and following a pair of timeouts, inbounded the ball with 7.6 seconds left.
With leading scorer Devontavius Payne, who tallied 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, being closely guarded the ball went to Bidinger, who was double-teamed on the baseline.
With the 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound Furmanek blocking his path, Bidinger had the ball stripped away by Furmanek, who also came up with it to end the game.
"We should call him bloodhound because he just has a nose for the ball,'' Althoff coach Greg Leib said of Furmanek. "The last play? Well, we were going to double team No. 11 (Payne).
"Fortunately we ended up doubling down on No. 23. (Bidinger). It worked out.''
Getting a team-high 26 points from Renner and solid play from their bench, the Crusaders moved to 3-0 in the South Seven Conference and 6-2 overall.
Althoff, getting a combined 11 points from Renner and Ryan Marcum, led 22-15 after one quarter.
But the Terriers turned up their defensive pressure in the second quarter.
Forcing nine Crusaders turnovers and with Allen Billinger scoring eight of his 18 points, Carbondale tied the game at 35 at halftime.
"It was a typical Althoff-Carbondale game. Very physical and back-and-forth,'' Leib said. "We were in foul trouble and I thought one of the keys to the game was that our kids off the bench came in and maintained where we were in the game.
"Kevin (Renner) was just lights out tonight. He felt it and you could see that. Had he not been in foul trouble, he might have gotten 35 points as well.''
Carbondale completed a 10-0 run to start the third quarter and took its first lead of the game at 37-35 on a basket by Billinger.
But Marcum and Renner both hit 3-point shots and combined for 14 of Althoff's 18 points as Althoff took a 53-52 lead into the final quarter.
Carbondale coach Jim Miller said his team had no answer for Renner.
"We had a hand in the kid's face. We double-teamed him a couple of times and he still scored on us,'' Miller said. "It was a very physical game and we thought it would be, because that's the way they (Althoff) play.
"I thought our kids held their own very well.''
The fourth quarter proved to be a duel between Renner and Payne. Renner tallied 11 of his 26 points and Payne was a one-man team for the Terriers, as he tallied 17 of his 35 points in the final period.
Payne hit two free throws with 2:15 left to give Carbondale its final lead at 72-71, but Renner responded with a free-throw line jumper and two free throws to put Althoff up 73-70.
Freshman Keenen Young also played a big role for Althoff, scoring seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Together Renner and Young combined for 18 of Althoff's 22 points in the last eight minutes.
Leading by two points, Leib's advice to his team during the final two time-outs was simple.
"I told them that if it was close to just bat the ball out of bounds. We've lost three games on tip-ins at the buzzer to Carbondale,'' Leib said. "This was a big win for this team. It's nice to be 3-0 at this point.''