BELLEVILLE — Carbondale was braced for the run it knew the Althoff Crusaders would make Friday.
Senior guard Devontavious Payne scored a game-high 23 points, including 17 in the first half, and junior guard Lavonte Sutton contributed 19 as the Terriers, after leading by 14 early in the third quarter, held off the Crusaders 67-63.
Jordan Kelly, a 6-foot-6 junior, added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Carbondale, which improved to 17-2 overall and 6-1 in the South Seven Conference. Althoff, which got 19 points from freshman Jordan Goodwin, 15 from senior Kevin Renner and 14 from sophomore Brendon Gooch, fell to 15-6 and 3-4.
"When you come to Althoff, the crowd is loud," Payne said. "They're going to make runs, so you've just got to counter their runs and keep playing. You've got to keep your composure. Coach (Jim Miller) told us to stay calm and we would get it done."
Althoff made a string of tough shots in the fourth quarter, but was unable to convert when faced with a chance to tie or take the lead. The Crusaders also hurt themselves with 3-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line in the final period.
"We just dug ourselves into too deep of a hole and had to fight back," said Renner, who twice brought Althoff within striking distance in the fourth quarter, once when his 3-pointer cut Carbondale's lead to 63-61 with 37 seconds to play.
"One more made shot could have made it a whole different ballgame," he said. "It just didn't go in our favor tonight. They're really athletic and they play a fast-paced ballgame. We're disappointed we lost the game, but we showed we're not going to lay down."
Althoff coach Greg Leib was pleased with that aspect of the Crusaders' performance.
"The effort was there," said Leib, whose team also lost to host Carbondale 68-56 on Dec. 14. "We've done this twice now against Carbondale. We've dug ourselves a hole and a 14-point hole on a team like Carbondale is tough to overcome.
"But we didn't quit. We kept battling. Some shots started to fall. We didn't get enough shots when we needed to and didn't hit some shots that we needed to."
Miller credited the Terriers' defensive effort against the rangy 6-5 Gooch, who was 6-for-18 from the field.
"We had to throw a lot of different looks at him," Miller said. "He's a young kid who, if you allow him to get comfortable, he gets a lot of confidence. We had a couple of different defenders on him. He had to work for everything he got tonight. Nothing was really easy, and I thought that was a big factor."
Carbondale outscored the Crusaders 20-10 in the second quarter to grab a 35-23 halftime lead. The margin swelled to a game-high 14 points when Sutton scored to make it 41-27 with 5:09 to play in the third quarter.
Althoff followed with a 15-3 run highlighted by 3-pointers from sophomore Keenen Young, Renner and Gooch.
Gooch's 3 from the right wing shaved the Terriers' lead to 44-42 with 20 seconds left the period, but Carbondale senior Allen Billinger hit a driving layup with one second to play, making it 46-42.
Carbondale twice led by six points in the fourth quarter. After Renner's 3 cut the Terriers' lead to two, Kelly was fouled and made the first of a one-and-one at the line to make it 64-61.
Kelly missed the second attempt, but Carbondale came away with the offensive rebound. One official called a foul on Althoff, as another simultaneously awarded a timeout to the Terriers.
The timeout held with 27.8 seconds left, and after the break, senior Shamarc Bursey was fouled and made two free throws to put Carbondale ahead 66-61 at the 25.6-second mark.
After Kelly missed two free throws with 17 seconds to play, Gooch dropped in a layup to make it 66-63 with 10 seconds left. Payne was fouled with 8.8 seconds remaining, and after missing his first free throw, he made his second shot to clinch the outcome.
"We talked about their runs and how you handle runs," Miller said. "I thought our kids really handled their runs with a lot of confidence and a lot of poise. We stepped up and made some play."
Althoff hurt itself by going 3-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, compared to 10-for-14 by Carbondale. Even eight 3-pointers weren't enough to save the Crusaders.
"We didn't play well enough to win," Leib said.