Not many road teams emerge victorious from Centralia’s Trout Arena, but the Althoff Crusaders managed to do so on Friday for the first time since Jan. 13, 2006.
“We haven’t won here since the second (George) Bush was in office, so I’m anticipating a phone call probably from President (Barack) Obama congratulating us on our momentous feat,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said after his team hit 16 of 25 free throws in the fourth quarter to hold off the Orphans 55-49 and clinch at least a tie for the South Seven Conference title.
Althoff (22-2), ranked second in the state in Class 3A, improved to 8-0 in league play with its 10th straight victory while eighth-ranked Centralia (21-3, 6-2) saw its nine-game winning streak end.
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Centralia twice cut Althoff’s lead to two points in the final 43 seconds on 3-pointers by Dawson Berry and D’Aaron Owens. Owens’ 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to 51-49 with 13.8 seconds remaining, but Althoff’s C.J. Coldon hit two free throw with 12.4 seconds remaining and Keenen Young added two more after that to clinch it.
We haven’t won here since the second (George) Bush was in office, so I’m anticipating a phone call probably from President (Barack) Obama congratulating us on our momentous feat.
Althoff coach Greg Leib on the rare road win over Centralia
“We missed shots, but we grinded this one out,” said Althoff junior Jordan Goodwin, held to 10 points while senior Brendon Gooch had a team-high 12 against the Orphans’ suffocating defense. “This was a hard win and I think we did a good job winning it.
“I circled this game on my schedule because I didn’t have a win here my first two years. I got a ‘W’ - and I’m going to get a ‘W’ next year, too.”
Althoff was 20-for-36 at the free-throw line, shooting 25 foul shots in the fourth quarter alone while three Orphans fouled out. Centralia was 4-for-9 at the foul line and Orphans coach Lee Bennett picked up a rare technical foul for voicing his displeasure with the officiating with 2:53 remaining and his team down by five.
“It’s been a long time since that’s happened,” Bennett said. “Probably not a coincidence. Obviously I just disagreed with (the call).”
I circled this game on my schedule because I didn’t have a win here my first two years. I got a ‘W’ - and I’m going to get a ‘W’ next year, too.
Althoff’s Jordan Goodwin
Asked to talk about the disparity in free throws between the teams in a game that became more physical as it wore on, Bennett said “I could, but I’m not going to.”
Centralia got 12 points from Berry, 11 from Owens and 10 from Tyriq Bilberry. Gooch had 12 for Althoff while Goodwin had 10, Coldon had nine and Young, Tarkus Ferguson and Marvin Bateman had eight each.
Bennett was pleased with his team’s effort, especially on the defensive end where the Orphans frustrated the Crusaders. Althoff was held below 60 points for the first time since the first two games this season when four starters were missing because of the state football playoffs.
“Centralia’s the No. 8 team in the state and there’s a reason,” Leib said. “It’s not a fluke, they guard really well, they force you to make shots. They’re probably one of the better defensive teams anyone will see anywhere in America. Lee does a great job with their defense.”
Bennett realized how long it had been since Althoff left Centralia with a win.
“It took a lot, didn’t it?” Bennett said. “It took a lot. Our kids will stand in the way. Our kids are willing to get in the way and stand strong, majke you have to go through them or over them to score. They battled really hard.”
The much-hyped game lived up to its billing and both teams battled throughout the night.
It was 16-16 after the first quarter and Althoff led 27-26 at halftime with Goodwin, averaging 17.4 points, held to five through the first three quarters. The teams wrestled their way into the fourth quarter tied 34-34 and Althoff opened up a 47-41 lead with 1:36 remaining on two free throws by Ferguson.
Goodwin picked up a technical foul with 1:33 remaining, but Billberry missed both free throws. The 3-pointers by Owens and Berry gave the Orphans a chance, but Althoff sank enough at the foul line to hold on.
“We had to make it interesting,” Leib said. “I’m on a serious stress-free lifestyle other than this, so I could be like a Buddhist monk just trying to keep my stress down.
The guys played well. They came out there and did a great job of taking care of the ball when we needed to. We didn’t have any turnovers down the stretch and that was huge.”