After a slow start Friday, Althoff rode a strong finish that included an emphatic exclamation point at the end of the night from Tarkus Ferguson.
The junior guard threw down a monster dunk that everyone in the gym saw coming near the end of the Crusaders’ 69-56 South Seven Conference road victory over the Cahokia Comanches, hanging on the rim while traffic cleared beneath him.
Althoff’s big offensive weapons all reached double figured led by sophomore Jordan Goodwin’s 21 points, 17 from Ferguson and 15 from junior Brendon Gooch.
“That’s all on them and sharing the basketball,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said of the balanced scoring that helped fuel a 13-4 run in the third quarter and finally creating some breathing room in a tough one for the Crusaders (21-3 overall, 5-1 in league play).
Althoff was fifth in the latest Class 3A state rankings and the Crusaders admit to feeling a bit of pressure and expectations these days.
“Everybody just wants to beat us all the time because we’re the best team in the area,” Ferguson said when asked about pulling out a tough road win. “Some games we lack a lot on defense and we let the teams kind of pick on us on rebounds. We individually picked up our intensity in the fourth quarter tonight.”
Althoff won the first meeting between the old rivals 78-61 on Dec. 29, erupting for 29 points in the fourth quarter.
At different times Friday, the scoring of Goodwin, Gooch and Ferguson all made a difference and sophomore C.J. Coldon contributed eight points as well. Goodwin drained back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter when Cahokia was controlling things early.
Ferguson hit two 3-pointers to help spur the third-quarter run along with Goodwin, then Gooch stepped up with six quick points in the fourth quarter as the Crusaders pulled away down the stretch.
Utilizing turnovers, Cahokia broke on top 7-0 and 9-2. Althoff was trailing 15-8 before finally finding some consistency on offense to help cut Cahokia’s lead to 15-12 after the first quarter.
Goodwin’s 3-pointers early in the second quarter to put Althoff on top 21=15, but the Crusaders were unable to sustain the momentum. Jerejy Franklin and Devonte Williams combined for eight points in the second quarter as the Comanches forced their way into a 29-29 tie at halftime.
Goodwin showed he’s more than a post player.
“He’s been improving it a lot in practice, he shoots a lot of 3’s after practice and before practice,” Ferguson said. “He’s getting his rhythm back in.”
Franklin had 17 points for Cahokia (11-13, 1-6) while Montez Crumble had 15 and Devonte Williams added 12 off the bench.
Leib wasn’t unnerved by the slow start.
“It looked like how we start practice most of the time until I start yelling,” he said. “We came out and got some buckets, Jordan hit some threes to keep us in it. We were able to get it inside and either get to the line or get to the rim.”
Goodwin was 9-of-11 at the foul line and Althoff was 19-for-26 overall, an improvement over its 21-for-38 performance in Saturday’s double-overtime defeat to Westchester St. Joseph.
Cahokia coach Darian Nash had hoped his team would keep pounding the ball inside.
(Franklin)’s coming along,” Nash said. “He’s the anchor of that post and if we wouldn’t have gone against our game plan, they had no answer for us in the post. Period. They won’t have an answer this year or next year. The post is where we’ll get them at.
“We went away from that. We took some threes in crucial situations, they came down and hit some threes and that’s how they won. If we stay pounding the post, pounding the post, inside out, we’d have been OK. This is a learning lesson.”
Cahokia had trouble withstanding Althoff’s offensive firepower in the third quarter.
“I guarantee we’ll be better during the playoffs,” Nash said. “I’m glad we’re having a hard time now, struggling, people doubt us. I like being an underdog, especially with this group. They work hard and the sky’s the limit.”