BELLEVILLE — Going to a four-corner style of slow-down offense provided the perfect opportunity for a quick guard like Kevin Renner.
Renner scored 20 points as the Crusaders beat the Marion Wildcats 56-49 Friday in a South Seven Conference game.
"We really tried to spread the floor out and wait for a good shot and not try to force anything,'' Renner said. "I think it turned out pretty well.''
Renner scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter after the Crusaders spread the floor.
"I love dribbling around and handling the ball out top,'' Renner said.
After getting up by double-digits in the second quarter, the Crusaders went to the slow-down offense several times during the rest of the game, including the final four minutes of the fourth quarter.
It's a strategy often employed by Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo.
"We just wanted to spread it out and attack and shorten the game on them,'' Althoff coach Greg Leib said. "The way they were shooting it, they were getting hot. We had the lead, so no sense ... Mike Waldo has won a whole lot more games than I have so he might know something.
"Our guard play is pretty heady. We have Renner and (Keenen) Young, and they do a pretty good job of taking care of the ball. The rest of the guys stay within themselves. They don't overextend or try to do too much. I know they're up there booing me and that sort of thing, but I don't care.''
Young added 15 points and Erik Furmanek had 12 points for the Crusaders (11-8, 4-2 South Seven).
"The guys are doing a great job,'' Leib said. "They're feeling their way through. Our post awareness is getting better every game. If we continue to improve in all of those areas, I think we have an opportunity to do something.''
"We're battling, and that's all I can say,'' said Marion coach Shane Hawkins, whose team fell to 10-10 and 1-5 in the South Seven. "We can't seem to take that last step to get over the hurdle. We're playing a lot of people close. We lost two games at Salem last week, and both games we led for 31 minutes.
"We lose one at the buzzer and one the last 45 seconds. We're there, but now we have to find a way to take the next step and win a close game down the stretch.''
The Wildcats were led by Brant Hill with 17 points. Carsen Cash had 11 points and Jawan Tucker had 10.
The Crusaders connected on their first five shots, including a 3-pointer from Furmanek, in taking an 11-8 lead.
Althoff also committed five turnovers in the opening period, and it fell behind 12-11 on a steal and breakaway layup by Malik Stuckey.
Marion led 14-11 early in the second quarter before the Crusaders went on an 18-4 run to close out the first half.
Renner had three straight baskets during the surge, while Grant Strieker hit a 3 at the buzzer ending the second quarter, putting Althoff ahead 29-18.
"We had a breakdown on that last possession of the half,'' Hawkins said. "It's winning that one play and going into the half down by eight as opposed to them burying one at the horn and now we're down by 11.
"Not only is it 11 on the scoreboard, but it's a psychological swing.''
The Wildcats got within six points early in the third quarter, but the Crusaders went up by 13 after a 3 from Young with 2:20 left in the period.
A layup by Ryan Marcum with three seconds left in the third quarter gave the Crusaders a 41-31 cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats again drew within six points on a basket by Cash with 4:45 to go.
Renner scored four straight points to put the Crusaders up by 10, but Hill hit a 3 slicing Marion's deficit to seven with 3:13 to go.
The Crusaders were 9-for-10 at the free-throw line over the final 1:34 to keep the Wildcats from getting any closer.
Both Renner and Young were 4-for-4 from the line down the stretch.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.