Not that Althoff basketball coach Greg Leib is the superstitious type, but the Crusaders have not won a game in Centralia since 2003.
The long drought continued Friday as the Orphans took a 12-1 and state-ranked Althoff squad and generally took them right out of the game on the way to a 63-53 South Seven Conference victory over the Crusaders.
“It’s Centralia, man,” said Leib, whose club was limited to 22-for-58 shooting overall (38 percent) by the Orphans, including 4-for-19 from 3-point range. “Don’t let anybody kid you, it ain’t rained for most teams in this area since doggone (19)32. You’ve got Arthur Trout stomping around the place ... it’s a tough place to play.”
Althoff’s last win in Centralia came at the old Trout Gym and the Crusaders (12-2, 3-1 in the South Seven) still are looking for their first win in the new one, which has been around for nine seasons. Althoff’s only other loss this season came to Collinsville at the Collinsville-Schnucks Holiday Classic.
Centralia (13-2, 2-2), now 10-0 at home, began the night ranked ninth in the Illinois Class 3A poll while Althoff was fourth. But rankings meant little on this night as Althoff cut the lead to five, 35-30, late in the third quarter only to watch the Orphans speed away again on a 10-2 run to close out the quarter.
Centralia got 19 points from Ryan Obermeier, 15 from Tyriq Bilberry and 13 from D’aaron Owens. The Orphans won despite committing 21 turnovers and shooting 20 fewer shots as they sank a sizzling 24-for-38 from the floor (63 percent).
Orphans coach Lee Bennett was also proud of his team’s defense.
“For the most part we stopped them from getting the run-out baskets where they can get going in a hurry,” Bennett said. “We were finishing by the basket relatively well. It seemed like the ball bounced around and kind of fell in for us in the first half and maybe it was bouncing around and not falling around for them.
“You know there is a little bit of fate involved. I don’t want to say luck because I think our guys really busted it to try to create their luck.”
Althoff sophomore Jordan Goodwin had 19 points and had success forcing his way to the rim most of the night. Junior Brendon Gooch was held to two while eight of Tarkus Ferguson’s 13 points didn’t come until things were mostly out of reach in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Marvin Bateman had 11 points.
Althoff fell behind immediately, missing eight of its first nine shots while Centralia was busy building a 7-2 lead.
An 8-0 run to start the second quarter padded the Orphans’ lead even further and that lead eventually reached 25-9 before Bateman hit the team’s first 3-pointer of the night.
The Crusaders missed their first nine 3-point tries and were 2-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first half and 7-for-27 overall on all their first-half shots. Centralia had no problem zeroing in on the basket, sinking nine of its 11 shots in the second quarter and 14-of-21 in the first half on the way to a 31-18 halftime cushion.
“Centralia forces you to take tough shots and at times when we were doing what we wanted to do, we looked pretty good,” Leib said. “It’s a learning curve and a learning experience for us. I hope it’s not one we’re accepting of, I know I’m not. If we want to beat good teams like this on the road, we as a collective group have got to do a better job.”