BELLEVILLE — After starting the season 0-3 in the South Seven Conference, the Althoff Crusaders decided to let everyone know they might be a force the rest of the way.
Althoff got 18 points from Keenen Young and Jordan Goodwin and 17 from Kevin Renner on Friday to knock off previously unbeaten and state-ranked Centralia 69-58.
The Crusaders owned the boards at both ends most of the night, with Brendon Gooch (13 points) pulling down 11 and Goodwin 10.
Althoff (10-4 overall, 1-3 in the conference) never trailed after Renner scored the first five points of the night.
"I just wanted to go out there and set the tone and I think we did that," Renner said. "It told them we were here to play and it turned out well."
Centralia was ranked fourth in the latest Class 3A state poll while Althoff was 18th.
Coming off an emotional win over Fort Zumwalt North on Thursday at the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout the at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, the Crusaders weren't sure what to expect with an intense conference game the following night.
"Tonight was a huge game," Renner said. "We played good last night and I think tonight we kind of upped it. It was a good team win, a great feeling."
Althoff coach Greg Leib was also wary of the back-to-back games.
"We just can't play (well) and then run away and hide the next night," Leib said. "It was a great challenge for the kids. They need to get out of the house, they've all been sleeping 14 to 16 hours a day."
The lone senior starter on a team that starts two sophomores and a freshman in Goodwin, Renner is enjoying his role as the calming influence.
"We've got a young team," he said. "We've got a lot of potential and a lot of talent. It's fun, we've got a good team down the road --and a we've got a lot of potential this year."
Althoff led by 10 early, but the Orphans (13-1, 2-1) would not go away. They cut Althoff's lead to a point late in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Jerod Simmons-Young, but Althoff wound up hitting five straight 3s.
Renner hit two and Young hit three, including a long one at the end of the third quarter to give the Crusaders a 44-37 lead.
An 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter helped put the game away, although Centralia crept to within six with 1:40 remaining
"Those threes were huge," Renner said. "I think that kind of gave us an edge on them in the fourth quarter, it made them have to fight back."
Centralia did, but fell short in its bid to turn in its best start since the 1954-55 season.
Althoff drained five of its eight 3s in the second half and the Orphans could not counter with enough offense to stay close at the end.
"Against a team that shoots like Centralia, you've got to shoot it like that to come out on top," Leib said.
The loss was a tough one for Centralia, which has beaten four Southwestern Conference teams.
"I thought we battled hard," Orphans coach Lee Bennett said. "We probably needed a wake-up call. Listen, I know what we are and what our margin for error is. We're going to hang in there and hopefully bounce back tomorrow.
"We did some things, just not enough to beat a good team that had a good night. I think Althoff had a good night."
Renner and Goodwin led the charge early for Althoff, which jumped on top quickly 14-4 and 16-6. Both players had seven points in the opening quarter to help the Crusaders open up a 19-10 lead.
Althoff's lead reached 21-10 early in the second quarter, but the Orphans caught fire with a 10-0 run that trimmed their deficit to 21-20.
A 3 by D'Aaron Owens and layup by Simmons-Young helped fuel the rally along with intense defense but Centralia still trailed 27-20 at the half.
Leib said Renner's value cannot be understated. His scoring average is down from last season at just under 11 per game, while Goodwin is averaging 21 and Gooch is at 14.
"I tell a lot of (college) coaches out there if you want to win ballgames, come get Kevin on your ballclub the next four years and he can help you out a lot," Leib said. "Kevin's had a superb year. He's probably taking half the shots he took last year for us just because he's running our offense, getting guys where they need to be and hitting shots.
"He hit some big shots tonight."