Nick Knolhoff knew there would be a time of transition when he took over the Althoff girls basketball program a year ago.
In his first year as a high school girls basketball coach, Knolhoff learned how to run a program while his players struggled at times to learn a new system and adjust to a new coaching philosophy. As a result, Althoff finished 9-19 after falling 47-29 to Central in the Class 2A regional title game.
A year later, the surging Crusaders enter their Thursday non-conference game against North Tech, (Mo.) with a 14-7 record. With four-year varsity players Kyleigh Vaught and Maggie Reimer leading the way, Althoff has won eight of its last 10 games and will enter the Highland Tournament this weekend and are also closing in on the South Seven Conference championship. The Crusaders are 6-1 in conference play and lead Carbondale by a game with three conference games remaining.
“It’s the seniors. They are taking over,” Knolhoff said. “I’m pushing them really hard in practice, and because of it, they are taking charge during games. I think a lot of it is motivational. They realize that their time of playing basketball at Althoff is coming to an end, and they want to make the most out of every second they are on the court.”
Vaught, who is ranked 14th in the St. Louis area in points per game (19.1), and Reimer (12.8) lead the Crusaders. The duo combined for 40 points in Althoff’s 53-34 win over Mount Vernon on Monday after scoring 49 of the team’s 59 in the Crusaders 59-49 win over Mater Dei.
“They carry the load for us, but Amanda (Kaltwasser) scored 11 the other night, and Ellie (Martz) and Emily Myatt have also had good scoring nights. I have all the confidence in the world that they can step up and have big nights for us.” Knolhoff said. “But what is really good about our girls is that they know their roles, and they know how to get the ball to Kyleigh and Maggie in a position where they can score.”
Class 1A and Class 2A seeds will be revealed Jan. 26. The Crusaders can help their cause Saturday when they take on Class 2A Hillsboro (16-3) at the Highland Tournament. The Hilltoppers are ranked seventh in the latest Class 2A state poll.