The Althoff boys basketball team’s magical season came to an end Saturday as the Crusaders fell 67-63 to Westchester St. Joseph in the class 3A IHSA state basketball championship game.
The Crusaders’ runner-up finish in Peoria is the best ever for a Belleville boys team in the state basketball tournament. A parade was scheduled for noon Sunday in Belleville to welcome the team back to town.
Althoff rode a strong second-half comeback, but couldn’t finish it off.
Back home in Belleville, it was standing room only at Shenanigans Bar and Grill as a large crowd gathered to watch the game. Many wore Althoff shirts as they cheered on the team, down the street from the high school.
They cheered when Althoff scored a basket and groaned when a foul was called on the hometown team.
Even when the Comcast Sports Net switched to spring training baseball coverage, those at the bar were undeterred and went to their smartphones to get score updates.
“This is nail-biting,” Kim Ahrens, of Belleville, said as her husband, Jerry, looked to see if Althoff would be able to mount a comeback.
A group of men even tried to live-stream the game with an iPhone.
After the dust settled, some Althoff alums fondly reflected on the season.
“They had a great year,” said Mike Vogt, of O’Fallon. “They’re young. Who would have thought they would have gone this far? They’ll be back next year.”
Althoff (30-4) got 23 points from sophomore Jordan Goodwin and 12 each from C.J. Coldon and Tarkus Ferguson. Glynn Watson scored 19 for St. Joseph (29-6) and Nick Rakosevic had 18.
The Crusaders trailed by as many as 11, but battled back to tie it on a shot by Brendon Gooch early in the fourth quarter. St. Joseph answered right back on a 3-pointer by Watson, then had a late 6-0 run to create some more distance.
No Belleville high school has won a state basketball championship. Belleville West finished third in 1966 and also made it to state in 2003. Belleville East made state tourney trips in 1969 and 1996.
Althoff has won state championships in football (1980, 1989, 1990), baseball (1991), girls soccer (2010), boys golf (2011, 2012) and girls golf (2014). The Crusaders’ girls basketball team finished second in the state in 2006, third in 2005 and fourth in 2003.
A celebration was planned on Sunday for the basketball team and the school’s dance team, which won first place in the jazz dance category of the Illinois Drill Team Association state finals in February.
A parade was scheduled to begin at noon at Althoff, go down Main Street into downtown Belleville, and back to the school. A pep rally was scheduled to follow at the school.