For the second straight season, the Althoff Crusaders squeaked out a one-point win over the Mater Dei Knights.
A year ago, it was C.J. Coldon scoring off an offensive rebound in the final seconds that gave the Crusaders a 53-52 victory in Breese.
On Saturday at Althoff, the Crusaders closed out their 50-49 victory at the defensive end.
A back-and-forth game through the final quarter, Althoff took the lead for good at 50-48 with 47.6 seconds left when freshman guard Ethyn Brown knocked down his first two free throws — but missed the third — after being fouled while taking a 3-pointer.
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Mater Dei would have its chances.
However, Lucas Theising only made his first free throw after being sent to the line with 42 seconds remaining.
The Knights (2-2) then had a pair of opportunities in the final 20 seconds. They seemed to pass up an open shot following a time out with six seconds remaining. Drew Tonnies finally took the shot, but his 10-footer didn’t fall as time expired.
“We had a number of chances to lose it there at the end,” said Crusaders coach Greg Leib, “but the boys just kept fighting for it.
“Big Patrick Readye grabbed that rebound there at the end to secure it. A lot of fun.”
Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg watched his Knights control the tempo throughout the first half and into the third quarter before Althoff’s athleticism quickened the pace of play.
Like Althoff (2-4), which graduated almost every player with experience from a successful team from a year ago, Mater Dei is featuring an almost all new rotation for the 2017-18 season.
“We played the way we wanted to for 31 minutes and 30 seconds, and then made two crucial mistakes in the last 30 seconds,” said Schadegg. “Fouling the 3-point shooter, and then with six seconds left, our guy just froze and did not make a play.
“That was the difference.”
Trailing by eight, the game seemed to turn Althoff’s direction during a 9-0 third-quarter run.
Senior guard Burke Watt ignited the surge scoring the first six points.
He struck first via a conventional three-point play, where the 5-foot-10 Watts was fouled while dunking with one hand over the Knights’ 6-2 Brady Boeckmann.
Mater Dei turned the ball over almost immediately on its ensuing possession, which Burke turned into a 3-pointer — off a Brown assist — that drew Althoff to within 35-33.
The Crusaders entered the final quarter trailing 37-36. Neither team would lead by more than three in the final eight minutes.
“It just sort of happened,” said Watts of his dunk. “Sometimes, when you settle for the layup everyone just kind of sits back. I wanted to go in for the dunk to get the crowd excited.
“That seemed to kind of get the team going.”
Watts, who came off the bench, topped Althoff with 12 points. Greg Wells also reached double digits with 10.
Leib said his team’s ability to speed up the game in the second half was key.
“I tweaked my knee there in the second quarter, and it got me wound up, inspired me to get after the kids,” he said. “At halftime, I told them we needed to speed things up.
“Let them know there is no sense in plowing a field; let’s make it a race.”
Devin Rensing topped Mater Dei with 12 points. The Knights’ Theising led both teams with seven rebounds.
“We’ve got to do a better job against hard pressure,” said Schedagg. “Have to value the basketball more, be strong with it.
“We’ve got some guys who need to learn when it is time to make a play.”
Althoff will return to action Friday, when it hosts Centralia in a South Seven Conference game. Mater Dei will be on the road Friday, making a trip to Quincy Notre Dame.