On a night where the top-ranked Althoff Crusaders weren’t at their best, it was still more than good enough to subdue the Carbondale Terriers.
Althoff overcame early foul and turnover trouble and shaky free-throw shooting to deliver a 67-51 South Seven Conference victory, getting 18 points from Brendon Gooch and 14 from Tarkus Ferguson.
Gooch is headed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Ferguson signed with Illinois-Chicago.
The bar is continually being set higher for the state’s No. 1-ranked 3A team and the Crusaders (18-2 overall, 6-0 in conference play) are learning to deal with the pressure that comes along with the notoriety.
“I just think our overall approach daily, myself included, that’s where it starts,” said Althoff coach Greg Leib, whose team hit only nine of 22 free throws and needed a 13-0 run in the second quarter to regain control over the upset-minded Terriers (15-7, 2-4). “If we get that done I think we’ll be the team we want to be.”
I’m going to have to get a Pepto Bismol sponsor maybe. We grinded it out and the guys played a pretty good zone tonight, we’ve been working on it and getting better at it. But we didn’t play our best basketball, a lot of missed opportunities.
Althoff coach Greg Leib
With five or six Division I athletes on the floor every night counting basketball and football, the Crusaders have more than enough talent to beat most teams on most nights.
“I’m going to have to get a Pepto Bismol sponsor maybe,” Leib said. “We grinded it out and the guys played a pretty good zone tonight, we’ve been working on it and getting better at it. But we didn’t play our best basketball, a lot of missed opportunities.
“When we needed to, we were able to get some stops and get some run-off buckets and we were able to compete.”
They showed their ability to run away from the Terriers several times Friday, especially during the 13-0 run in the second quarter that turned a 17-16 Carbondale lead into a 29-17 advantage for the Crusaders.
“It’s like a freight train,” was the description of the Althoff attack by Carbondale coach Jim Miller. “Honestly, they just come at you and they’ve got so many weapons in transition (that) if you don’t pick up each one of them quickly, they’ll just run right over the top of you.”
Althoff also got 13 points each from Jordan Goodwin and C.J. Coldon while Carbondale was led by Shahere Lark’s 18 points. Unree Westley added 17 points for the Terriers, who were victimized inside all night by the aggressive rebounding of Gooch, Ferguson and Goodwin.
It’s like a freight train. Honestly, they just come at you and they’ve got so many weapons in transition (that) if you don’t pick up each one of them quickly, they’ll just run right over the top of you.
Carbondale coach Jim Miller on the Crusaders
“Early in the game I thought our tempo was very good, I thought we were very aggressive to the basket,” Miller said. “I think the big change in what happened out there is they went to that zone (defense). They’re so long and they make it so difficult to get turns and to advance the ball to the post.
“Our kids did a great job of selling the shots tonight inside, but you saw it once, you saw it twice, they’ve got a third guy coming from the weak side to block it on you.”
Goodwin picked up three fouls before the first quarter ended and found himself on the bench for the rest of the first half. The Division I prospect drained a 3-pointer to start the second half and quickly got back into the offensive flow.
Carbondale got 10 points in the first half from Lark, who gave the Terriers a 17-16 lead early in the second quarter. The Crusaders responded immediately, riding a 13-0 run to build a 29-17 lead on the way to a 31-20 halftime advantage.
“Our kids understood there were going to be runs,” Miller said. “They countered their runs, they gave us a chance to the end. But give Althoff credit, they’re a very solid basketball team and we had our hands full.”
Leib would rather not see any more 9-for-22 free-throw nights but foul shooting is one area the Crusaders have struggled with much of the season.
“We shoot free throws,” he said. “We may quit shooting free throws, but I don’t know ... I don’t think you get better at anything by not doing it. I’ve proven that with being on a diet, I don’t do it and I’m not getting any better at it.
“We work on routines, getting them done, shooting when we we’re tired, shooting repetition; there’s a variety to it. It’s a focus factor on the kids and they’re sincere individuals. They’ll get better as the season progresses.”