They were wearing throwback uniforms from the mid-1990s Saturday, but there was nothing old-fashioned about the offensive attack of the Althoff Crusaders.
Althoff wrapped up the city title by cruising past Belleville West 71-53, putting four players in double figures in an unselfish, yet stylish display of basketball prowess.
Junior guard Tarkus Ferguson led the way for the Crusaders (22-3) with 19 points and four electrifying dunks. Althoff’s offensive balance showed throughout the night as sophomore Jordan Goodwin finished with 18, sophomore C.J. Coldon had 14 and junior Keenen Young had 13.
The offensive balance was fine, but it was the dunks that kept bringing the large Althoff student section to its feet.
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“We may have accumulated more dunks this season than I had in my entire career combined,” said Althoff coach Greg Leib, a solid player for Flora High in eastern Illinois who later played at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “That’s just the guys playing hungry, getting to the rim and crashing the boards.”
Belleville West (7-16), playing without injured senior guard Austin Seibert, also lost guard Demond White with 2:01 remaining in the first quarter when he suffered a cut on his face. White returned later in the game, but his absence hurt the Maroons.
It was a tough weekend for West, which nearly upset top-ranked East St. Louis on Friday before losing 71-69, then had to face second-ranked Althoff the following night. East St .Louis is first in the News-Democrat Large-School Poll and eighth in the Class 4A state rankings, while Althoff is second in the area and fifth in 3A.
Maroons coach Joe Muniz was asked what he thinks makes the Crusaders so good.
“They’ve got great talent all the way around,” Muniz said. “They’ve got guys that are on their bench that could start for most teams. They’re unselfish and when you average a size of 6-3, they’re not big but they’re long - and they’re long and quick and they’re rangy.
“They’ve got the whole package, to be quite honest.”
Ferguson, who played for Belleville West as a freshman and Cahokia as a sophomore, had a stretch of nine straight points in the second quarter that included three dunks.
“It’s just his presence crashing to the basket and the way he can elevate,” Leib said. “That’s just an added bonus of top of what else he does out there. “
Ferguson also played a key role in the 1-2-2 zone trap Althoff used Saturday to try to keep the ball out of the hands of West’s big interior players. Tyler Dancy had 12 points and Eugene Jones finished with 17 for the Maroons.
“The one negative I thought was we weren’t patient enough offensively to get their defense to extend a little bit and use our strength inside to get the ball in there,” Muniz said.
Goodwin scored eight of Althoff’s first 10 points as the Crusaders capitalized on 10 first-half turnovers by the Maroons. They had 19 turnovers on the night.
Althoff led 14-9 after the first quarter, then Ferguson went off for nine straight points and managed to throw down three dunks during the span.
One of those slams put Belleville West in a 21-9 hole, but the Maroons managed to cut the halftime deficit to 28-19 while Althoff was rushing 3-point shots that missed the mark. Young’s 3-pointer just before the first half ended gave Althoff a nine-point lead.
Young returned two weeks ago after missing much of the season with a fractured ankle. He showed how important he could be to the offense Saturday, scoring 13 points and helping run things at the point.
“We really wanted to push the ball and when Keenen came in, he really got it up and we got some nice run-off buckets,” Leib said of Young, an All-Area wide receiver for Althoff football coach Ken Turner. “(Young) makes so many good decisions. Coach T (Turner) is playing him out of position all these years, he probably should have been a quarterback. He made good decisions out there and he was able to hit some shots in rhythm.
“The legs are fresh and that’s great. It looks like his timing’s getting a lot better, too.”