The early season matchup between two of the top Class 4A teams in the state didn’t disappoint a large gathering at the Highland Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday.
Althoff senior Jordan Goodwin missed a 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer as the Crusaders’ frenetic comeback fell short in an 81-78 loss to the Edwardsville Tigers in the title game.
The Crusaders (3-1), the Class 3A state champions last year, suffered their first defeat since Jan. 9 when they fell 81-66 to Chaminade, of St. Louis, in the Highland Optimists Shootout.
“I’m not going to take anything away from Edwardsville, but I felt like we lost that game by playing a slow first half,” said Goodwin of Althoff’s 35-30 deficit at halftime. “It came back and got us. Mark (Smith) and A.J. (Epenesa) made plays. They did what they did; they came to play. But the loss is definitely on us, the people in the blue jerseys.”
The 6-foot-4 Goodwin, the Saint Louis University recruit, finished with 32 points but expressed disappointment in his 13-for-22 showing from the free-throw line. Althoff was 15-for-27 from the line overall. Edwardsville (4-0) was 22-for-34 on free throws.
The 6-4 Smith scored a career-high 37 points, using his dribble-drive to consistently attack the rim and get to the line, from where he was 16-for-22. The 6-5 Epenesa, an Iowa football recruit, finished with 21 points and was his usual dominant self in the low blocks.
“We knew what to expect coming in,” Mark Smith said. “I just think we kept our composure and we adjusted. We’re mature from playing in the Southwestern Conference and we just executed Coach (Mike) Waldo’s plan. We stayed calm and played our game. Getting to the basket, Coach Waldo works on that every day with me. I played hard like I normally play.”
Senior Dante Ray chipped in with 21 points for Althoff. Senior Marvin Bateman, who scored 29 points Tuesday and 22 points Friday, was held without a point.
“They just did a good job of locking him out and guarding him wherever he went,” Crusaders coach Greg Leib said. “I’m not making excuses. Usually, we have some counters to that, but we haven’t put anything like that in. Those things happen in a Thanksgiving tournament.”
Edwardsville led 72-57 after senior Stephen Oliver made two free throws with 5:17 to play in the fourth quarter. The lead shrank to 78-71 on two free throws by Goodwin with 2:18 left.
The Tigers then committed three consecutive turnovers. A charge on Smith began the sequence, and Ray converted a putback to make it 78-73 with 1:57 to play.
Two over-and-back violations followed, and the Crusaders made Edwardsville pay for one of them with a basket by senior C.J. Coldon that made it 78-75 at the 1:40 mark.
Edwardsville junior Jack Marinko made one of two free throws with 52.9 seconds remaining before Goodwin was fouled by senior Nathan Kolesa while scoring in the paint with 47.7 seconds left. Goodwin missed the free throw, and the Tigers still led 79-78.
Oliver’s layup made it 81-78 and was followed by a missed 3-pointer by Ray. Oliver misfired on a 3 that would have clinched the win, giving Goodwin his final shot from the left wing.
“I thought it was good,” said Goodwin, who instead saw the shot carom off the rim and the Tigers grab the rebound just ahead of the final buzzer.
“Unfortunately, I missed a lot of free throws and I missed that one free throw to tie the game up,” Goodwin said. “I feel like I lost this game for my team tonight. But you’ve got to give credit to Edwardsville. They stayed poised. They did the little things to beat us.”
Waldo said he expected the Crusaders to make a late charge.
“Althoff’s very good and they’re hard to defend,” he said. “Our guys really battled against a team that’s really hard to defend. We ran a lot of good offense. (But) they’re athletic and they’re hard to play against. We turned the ball over some later. I think you’ve got to give them credit for causing that.
“They did a good job of pressuring and you knew they could do that. We made some good plays against them and we had a few turnovers. But it’s early in the year. Being able to beat them was a good win because they’re an excellent team.”
Goodwin dazzled the crowd in one third-quarter series when he blocked a shot in the lane by Smith, then raced to the other end and dunked over 6-6 junior Caleb Strohmeier of the Tigers. Strohmeier fouled Goodwin, who completed the three-point play to make it 55-46.
It was an indication that the Crusaders weren’t going to be dismissed so easily.
“We’ve all gotten to enjoy him for three years now,” Leib said. “There’s nobody more competitive, and he just came out and showed that tonight. We can build on this. We just didn’t win. Edwardsville outplayed us and did a better job than we did.”
O’Fallon 49, Highland 37
The Panthers finished off a 3-1 tournament with a win over the host Bulldogs.
“We didn’t finish the game like we wanted to, but a lot of that was (Highland),” first-year O’Fallon coach Brian Muniz said. “They played really hard all the way to the end.
“I’m happy overall with the tournament. We played really hard all four games. We have some things to work on that we know, to gear up for (Southwestern) conference play. We’ve got to be scrappy. We’ve got to be irritating. (Our opponents’) bigs have got to know if they’re going to get the ball inside, we’re going to have six hands in there trying to poke it out of there.”
Senior Ryan Fulton led O’Fallon with 15 points and junior Tabari Dunalap added 12. Both players made two 3-pointers as the Panthers finished with seven overall.
“We have some 3-point shooters,” Muniz said. “We’re going to have to be able to spread teams out with the 3. We have a lot of guys that can shoot it. What we don’t want to do is become 3-happy and that be our only offense. If that runs dry, we’re in trouble.”
Sophomore Sam LaPorta had 17 points for the Bulldogs (0-4).
Carbondale 57, Waterloo 53
Junior Darius Beane broke a 53-53 tie with two free throws in the final minute of the fourth quarter as the Terriers, who led 33-23 at halftime, survived a grind-it-out special.
Waterloo (0-4) had an opportunity to deadlock the game, but Bulldogs senior Dylan Hunt missed a contested one-hander in the lane. Carbondale junior Kani Acree then made two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to seal the outcome.
Junior Ross Schrader had a game-high 27 points for Waterloo, while senior Griffin Lenhardt had 13. Beane led the Terrriers (2-2) with 22 points.