WATERLOO — Ryan Marcum and the Althoff Crusaders have learned how to seal the deal in close games.
Marcum scored six straight points to trigger an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter and the Crusaders held on for a 54-47 win over the Waterloo Bulldogs in the semifinal round of the Class 3A Waterloo Regional.
"We just knew we had to come out and keep playing hard," said Marcum, who finished with 13 points. "We had to finish. We haven't been doing that all year. We knew this was the time to do it."
Marcum sank all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt and then nailed a 3-pointer on the Crusaders' next possession.
"He makes the most of his opportunities," Althoff coach Greg Leib said of Marcum. "Sometimes teams may play off of him, and he senses that. If they get up on him too much, he's quick enough to get to the rim. He has a nice mid-range pull-up move. He hit some big shots. He hit some big shots for us last Friday to beat Centralia in overtime. He's playing pretty well."
The Crusaders were led by Kevin Renner and Keenen Young with 14 points apiece. Brendon Gooch added eight points.
The Crusaders (14-12) advance to play the Cahokia Comanches (28-3), who are ranked No. 4 in Class 3A in the state, at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the championship of the Waterloo Regional.
The two South Seven Conference teams met twice during the regular season with Cahokia winning 61-44 and 81-71.
"Althoff and Cahokia, I don't know how many regionals we've decided between each other, but it's been about 10, I think," Leib said. "It's always a good battle, it's always a friendly battle. It's been good competition ever since I have been at Althoff."
The Bulldogs ended their season at 17-11. They'll lose only two seniors -- Justin Kretchmer and Jared Lengacher -- to graduation.
"Althoff is young, too, and they're going to be in the regional with us," Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser said. "The future does look good here at Waterloo, but, by God, the future looks good at Althoff, too. We have to figure a way to get some of those guys stopped. We still have a long ways to go to catch up with Althoff."
Kretchmer had a team-leading 17 points. Daniel Gardner had nine points and Lengacher had eight points.
The Crusaders had a 9-0 run in the third quarter and the 11-0 run in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs fought back within one twice after the first run and then got within three after the second run thanks to a 3-pointer by Reid Hoffman with 58 seconds left.
Renner and Gooch combined to go 6-for-6 at the free-throw line over the final 43 seconds to clinch the win.
"We just had to use too much energy to try come back," Cruser said. "We didn't have enough in the tank at the end because we had given up too many big lead changes."
Cahokia 70, Freeburg 58
Whether you call it a scare or a wake-up call, the top-seeded Cahokia Comanches struggled to get past the fifth-seeded Freeburg Midgets in the other semifinal game.
Derenzo Jennings scored 23 points, including seven 3-pointers, and Keenan Minor added 19 points, including 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, for the Comanches, who pulled away in the fourth quarter.
"It's the postseason, so everybody comes prepared," Cahokia coach Darian Nash said. "Like I told our guys tonight, 'They are not going to lay down for us just because we are ranked and all of that.'
"It's an ugly win, but we lived to see tomorrow, so that's the main thing."
The Comanches were playing without Darius Austin, who was on crunches due to an ankle injury.
Nash said the Comanches will learn if Austin, a 6-foot-7 junior who averages 12.6 points per game, will be available in the postseason after he visits a specialist on Wednesday.
The Midgets, who ended their season at 10-19, got 23 points from both Dalton Crunk and Justin Diecker.
"We knew nobody gave us a chance coming in," Freeburg coach T.J. Hoover said. "If you would told us that we would take a 12-point loss to Cahokia and been in the game in the third quarter, we would have taken that. It doesn't feel that way now, though. It was a great effort for our kids."
Crunk had five 3-pointers, while sophomore Jacob Mueller, the hero in the Midgets' overtime win over Columbia on Monday night, chipped in 11 points.
"Jacob Mueller came through again and hit some big shots, Justin Diecker was real good around the rim and Dalton Crunk really came to play tonight in his last game as a senior," Hoover said.
The score was tied at 39-39 after a 3-pointer by Dalton Crunk with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
The Comanches took a three-point, 54-51 lead into the fourth quarter, but got 3-pointers from Minor and Jennings to open up a 60-51 advantage.
Leading by nine points, the Comanches spread the floor with about three minutes left, forcing the Midgets to foul.
"The way they can handle the basketball, you get down by six or eight points late in the game, they are going to take care of it," Hoover said. "They did what they had to do."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.