Pushed hard by Althoff throughout the first half, nationally ranked Chaminade came out with vengeance in the second half Saturday night in the finale of the Highland Optimist Shootout.
That vengeance was spurred by dominant 6-foot-9 Duke recruit Jayson Tatum, who poured in 24 of his game-high 32 points in the second half of Chaminade’s 81-66 victory over the Crusaders before more than 3,100 fans.
Tatum also had 12 rebounds, three steals and two assists.
“That’s why he’s the No. 1 player in the country,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “He’s going to play one year at Duke and go to the NBA. He’s very crafty at getting space to get himself a shot. When you’ve got step-backs, you’ve got 3-pointers, you’ve got drives ... he can take one dribble from halfcourt and shoot a layup.
“He’s that kind of kid.”
Tatum, who was mobbed by autograph seekers after the game, had a slow start but heated up quickly with a pair of dunks in the second quarter.
“I started off slow, but I’ve matured a lot,” Tatum said. “I just let the game come to me and not rush anything. I know it’s a long game; if the first couple minutes things don’t go your way, you still have a long time to play.
“My freshmen and sophomore years, I would have handled things differently. As you get older, you start to handle things better.”
Althoff (12-2) led 20-11 early in the second quarter, but couldn’t maintain that momentum against an awesome array of Division I talent possessed by the Red Devils (13-3). Chaminade was ranked 15th in the latest USA Today Super 25 poll, while Althoff is first among Illinois Class 3A teams.
The Crusaders got 23 points from junior Jordan Goodwin, 13 from Keenen Young and 12 from Marvin Bateman.
Goodwin and Tatum have been good friends since they competed against each other in their younger days.
“We’ve been friends a long time,” Tatum said. “We play in the summer on the St. Louis Eagles. He’s a great talent. Even though he’s younger than me he’s going to be really, really good.”
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,100 jammed its way into the Highland gym. They lined stairwells, stood in corners of the floor near the court and also sat in the aisles.
The gym was nearly full by the end of Central’s victory over Okawville. Fans kept streaming in and the place was packed before the start of the Peoria Manual-Father Tolton game that preceded the Althoff-Chaminade finale.
“It’s every bit as good as a state championship or anything that you’re going to see,” Leib said. “It’s a great experience for our kids, Highland did a great job and we got to play a tremendous opponent tonight. Chaminade’s a really good ballclub and you could see otnight why they’re 15th in the country. They were alble to alter a lot of our shots.”
Althoff led 27-26 at halftime, but was outscored 28-15 during a red-hot third quarter by the Red Devils that included 13 points from Tatum. Among those was an unblockable turnaround jumper from the baseline that found nothing but net as Chaminade carried a 54-42 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We had a lead and I thought we were going to do pretty good,” Goodwin said. “We came out in the second half a little flat, shots weren’t falling and we didn’t get back on defense. They’re good in transition and they killed us on the break. They outrebounded us, too.”
Althoff was 23-for-61 from the floor overall and managed to hit just eight of its 28 3-point attempts. Chaminade’s front line of 6-9, 6-9 and 6-10 players had something to do with the frequency of misses, too.
“Goodwin is special,” said Chaminade coach Frank Bennett, who admired Goodwin’s intensity said. “He’s a tough, tough player. That’s beautiful, that’s the way any coach wants basketball to be played.”
After Chaminade scored the first five points, Althoff responded with an 11-0 run fueled in part by two 3-pointers from Young.
Tatum was scoreless for much of the fusrt quarter while being chased by the Althoff defense. When he broke free, he threw down a pair of dunks that brought the crowd to its feet.
Despite hitting only six of 21 shots in the first quarter, Althoff led 17-9 by crashing the board for extra opportunities.
The Crusaders’ lead reached 20-11 early in the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Bateman before the Red Devils responded with an 8-0 run. A 3-pointer by Brendon Gooch slowed Chaminade down a bit and the Crusaders led 27-26 at halftime on a high-flying layup through traffic by junior guard C.J. Coldon.
“They’re not scared of us and we’re not scared of them,” Bennett said. “They’re well-prepared, well-coached and they’re very talented. So are we.”