BELLEVILLE — With both teams missing their leading scorers because of injuries, Friday's South Seven Conference game between Althoff and Mount Vernon figured to be a bit of a mystery.
The answers came in the form of big fourth quarters by Althoff sophomore Brendon Gooch and senior Kevin Renner as the Crusaders delivered a 63-55 victory over the Rams.
"We challenged the other guys and they made the most of their opportunities," said Althoff coach Greg Leib, whose team got 19 points from Gooch and 16 from Renner. "I was real proud of how the guys came out there and stepped up."
Althoff played without freshman Jordan Goodwin, the team's scoring leader whom Leib said has a concussion. Mount Vernon was missing sophomore scoring leader Braden Fitzgerrells because of a wrist injury.
Althoff (15-5), now 3-3 in the South Seven after losing its first three conference games, led by only five points heading into the fourth quarter.
Mount Vernon (12-8, 1-5) crept within four at 50-46, but Gooch and Renner went to work with additional help from Keenen Young and Rick Edwards.
Gooch and Renner combined for 13 points down the stretch to help Althoff hold on.
"I don't know what Kevin had for points, but he was like the Maestro off of Seinfeld," Leib said. "He was handling things, conducting business out there, hitting shots and making plays. He did a great job for us tonight."
Leib was just as excited about Gooch, a sophomore who already has a Division I offer from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
"When Brendon needed a rebound he got a rebound," Leib said. "When he needed a bucket, he got a bucket. He's just steadily getting better and maturing every day."
Gooch enjoyed the collective approach to the victory.
"It was a good team win," he said. "We were missing our top player in Jordan, so we had to step up offensively and defensively."
Althoff also got contributions at various times from Grant Strieker, who started in Goodwin's spot, and reserves Erik Krause (four points), freshman Marvin Bateman (two 3-pointers) and Jalen Jones.
Mount Vernon coach Scott Gamber said Gooch was a load to deal with.
"He's a tough matchup for us because he's good enough on the perimeter where our post guys struggled getting out there on him," Gamber said. "He's long and good enough slashing that our guards struggled (to defend him) too. He was a really difficult matchup."
The Rams got a game-high 26 points from senior Shakari Hawkins, who exploded for 11 of those in the fourth quarter. Hawkins showed great quickness even when returning from an apparent leg injury during the third quarter.
"I think they've got some of that HGH stuff in a cream now," joked Leib. "He came back faster than he was; whatever they gave him I need some. He was tremendous, he was as quick as anybody we've played all year -- and we've played some people."
Gamber wasn't as thrilled by the Rams' quickness on offense, especially when it came to launching shots. Jake Pike added 15 points and Dylan Reeves had eight.
"My frustration with our group is I thought our pace of play was way too fast tonight," said Gamber, whose team missed its first seven shots and 11 of 13 in the first quarter. "I thought our shot selection was really bad tonight.
"We've got to play a lot more under control even when Braden's back in our lineup. We can't beat our conference schools playing the style that we're playing. I thought we settled for way too many shots tonight. We needed the score to be in the 40s to come to Althoff and win."