BELLEVILLE — Kevin Renner wanted to be the man of the moment Friday. Unfortunately for the Belleville West Maroons, the Althoff senior got his wish.
Renner's 12-footer from the right side of the lane with 15 seconds left proved decisive as the Crusaders nipped the determined Maroons 48-47 in the Chick-fil-A Classic before a large crowd at Belleville East.
"It was one of those in-the-moment things," said Renner, who scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. "It felt good. I ended up with the ball in my hands. I feel confident in any one of my teammates taking that shot. It just happened to be me."
Althoff (12-3) won its sixth consecutive game and will meet defending champion Belleville East (12-5) in the title game at 8 p.m. Saturday. The Lancers are on five-game winning streak.
Sophomore Brendon Gooch had a game-high 19 points for Althoff, 11 coming in the first quarter when it appeared the Crusaders might run away from West (3-12). Senior Steven Roberts and 6-foot-5 freshman Tyler Dancy had 11 points apiece for the Maroons.
For a short time, it appeared Dancy would be the hero. His two free throws with 24.8 seconds to play put West ahead 47-46.
The Crusaders, however, rushed down the floor, with Gooch, Renner and freshman Jordan Goodwin as scoring options. It turned out to be Renner with the ball in his hands.
"Even when we were in that huddle there (before Dancy's free throws), talking about what we wanted to run and what we wanted to do, the look on their faces ... they had that belief," Althoff coach Greg Leib said. "It wasn't a look like, 'Oh, no, we're done.'
"Were we lucky? Yeah, but a lot of that luck is the hours of preparation with Renner making that move over and over, whether in the gym or out in his driveway. He got it in rhythm and we got what we wanted out of it."
Althoff led 18-11 after one quarter and 27-18 at halftime. But West began to peck away in the third quarter, and when Goodwin left the game with his fourth foul with 2:56 left in the period, the Maroons sensed an opportunity.
They tied the game at 37 on a basket by Dancy, and finally grabbed the lead at 43-41 on two free throws by Roberts with 4:01 to play.
That's when Goodwin returned to the game after spending 6 minutes, 55 seconds on the bench. Dancy, however, scored again to give the Maroons a 45-41 lead with 3:09 left.
Renner followed with a basket and a 3-pointer to put the Crusaders back on top at 46-45. West senior Cole Henke then missed a shot in the lane, but Dancy grabbed the rebound and was fouled by senior Rick Edwards.
Althoff called timeout to freeze Dancy, but after the break, the 240-pounder calmly sank both free throws. Renner's heroics followed, but the Maroons had three more chances.
First, junior Eugene Jones missed a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Henke, whose putback from the left side of the basket rolled out. Henke controlled the next rebound, too, but was unable to convert his second attempt just before the buzzer sounded.
Renner credited the Maroons.
"West played really good," he said. "They flustered us the whole game, I think. They made that run there toward the end and kind of had us shaken a bit.
"It was a fun game. We toughed it out at the end, and I think that shows how tough we are as a team."
There was no jubilation in the Maroons' locker room. Despite showing marked improvement, West lost its seventh straight.
"Our kids have played hard all year long," Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. "That's not typical of a team that's got three wins. They're hurting pretty bad. Tomorrow we're going to bounce back and play McCluer (in the fifth-place game) and see if we can get one. I think our kids will be excited to get out and compete.
"We were just trying to figure out a way to compete a month ago. Now we've got to figure out a way to finish."
Althoff shot 48 percent (19-for-40) and was 5-for-8 from the free-throw line. The Maroons finished at 32 percent (16-for-50) and were 15-for-17 from line.
"It was a great battle," Leib said. "We talk about it all the time. When it's West-Althoff, throw your records out. Just go play basketball and see what happens."
Madison College Prep 74, McCluer 52
Arlando Cook, a 6-8 senior, dropped in a team-best 21 points as the Bears controlled McCluer from start to finish.
Madison College Prep (15-3) will play Normandy for third place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
McCluer (1-10) was guided by freshman Ryan Warren-Hogue, who topped all scorers with 22 points.