Belleville West hung with Althoff for one quarter Saturday night, but when the Crusaders lowered the boom, it came with tremendous force.
Five Althoff players reached double figures, led by junior C.J. Coldon’s 20 points, in an 82-61 victory over the host Maroons that gave the Crusaders the city championship.
“We knew we had to come and win the game and play hard,” said Coldon, who was 9-for-12 from the field. “This was a big atmosphere. It’s a crosstown rivalry.”
Coldon has 66 points in the last four games, and he credits his teammates for that.
“My team has confidence in me,” Coldon said. “That makes me have confidence in myself. I just play hard for them and we just jell together.”
Althoff, which led 17-11 after one quarter, outscored West 61-26 in the second and third quarters to put the game out of reach. The Crusaders (23-2) made 13 3-pointers, including five from senior Brendon Gooch, who finished with 17 points.
They got into a rhythm, and that was one of the things we hoped they wouldn’t do.
Belleville West coach Joe Muniz
Senior Tarkus Ferguson added 13 points for the Crusaders, who also received 12 from junior Jordan Goodwin and 10 from junior Marvin Bateman. Senior Keenen Young had nine points and opened the third quarter with back-to-back 3s to put Althoff ahead 50-25.
We had guys hitting shots, and that opens up your driving lines. We were just fortunate to get some buckets, and we got some runoff buckets from our defense and forced some turnovers.
Althoff coach Greg Leib
“When you get that kind of balanced scoring, it’s really difficult for teams to take things away,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “We had guys hitting shots, and that opens up your driving lines. We were just fortunate to get some buckets, and we got some runoff buckets from our defense and forced some turnovers.”
The Maroons (10-13), who led 5-1, 7-4 and 9-8 in the first 4:45 of the contest, got 16 points from 6-foot-7 junior Tyler Dancy and 15 from 6-6 freshman E.J. Liddell. West hurt itself in the first half when it committed 11 of its 14 turnovers.
“The first seven minutes of the first quarter, we were right there neck-and-neck,” Maroons coach Joe Muniz said. “We had a few breakdowns, not finding Bateman. The bottom line is ... it’s hard trading 2s for 3s, and they hit them in bunches. They got into a rhythm, and that was one of the things we hoped they wouldn’t do. They are who they are.”
The Maroons were still in contention when they trailed just 22-17 after a basket in the paint by Dancy with 6:39 to play in the second quarter.
But Goodwin followed with a dunk, Bateman hit a 3-pointer and Coldon scored on a driving layup to make it 29-17 and force the Maroons to call timeout. West got a basket from junior Jack Lanxon after the break, but the Crusaders scored 35 of the next 43 points to amass a 64-27 lead with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter.
“They’re a very talented ballclub that’s got a lot of length,” Muniz said. “They may not have to exert as much energy as other teams do to play hard. They can take two or three steps and be 15 feet closer (to the rim) than the team they’re playing against. Matchups are hard with them. They’re 6-3 or taller, and we’ve got some guys who aren’t quite as big.”
Both teams used bench players for most of the fourth quarter, when the Maroons outscored Althoff 24-4 to make the game appear closer than it was.
As well as Althoff played, shooting 50 percent from the floor (32-for-64) and committing just six turnovers, most fans have seen it perform better. Leib, too, has witnessed it.
“The expectations are we’re supposed to look like the (Golden State) Warriors every time out,” Leib said, referring to the NBA team that is 48-4. “We’ve got high-school kids. We rode on a school bus to (and from) Centralia for a tough game there and came back and played a city game.
“I thought the guys responded really well. The guys came in (Saturday morning) and did some shooting. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”