Poor free-throw shooting by Althoff helped Carbondale stay close Friday in the championship game of the Class 3A Carbondale Sectional. Sizzling shooting from the line down the stretch enabled the Crusaders to pull away.
After going 9-for-20 from the line in the first three quarters, Althoff sank 15 of its 16 free throws in the fourth quarter as it defeated the Terriers 77-72 before a capacity crowd. It was the Crusaders’ first sectional title since 2009.
Sophomore Jordan Goodwin scored a team-high 24 points and Ferguson added 17, making all eight of his free throws in the fourth quarter.
Althoff (27-3) advances to the Springfield Super-Sectional and will play Mahomet-Seymour (23-10) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Prairie Capital Convention Center. Mahomet-Seymour nipped Springfield Lanphier 71-70 to win the Champaign Centennial Sectional on Friday.
“The way Tarkus was making free throws ... And Edwyn Brown came in and made two big free throws. Those were pivotal because it kept that lead at a two- to three-possession situation,” Crusaders coach Greg Leib said. “Beating a team like Carbondale here is incredible. It’s such a tough thing to do. Jim Miller is a great coach and they’ve got a storied program.”
But it’s Althoff turn to attempt to add another chapter to its amazing story this season.
“It’s a big win,” Goodwin said. “Early in the season, we lost to St. Joe’s (Westchester St. Joseph) because we couldn’t make free throws and we turned the ball over in the late part of the game. We worked on that in practice, and hard work pays off. After practice, Coach Leib forces us to shoot 50 free throws. We’ve just been working on it.”
Carbondale, which led 41-34 early in the third quarter, finished 25-6. Althoff won all three games against the Terriers this season.
“You put a team to the line 36 times, you’re not giving yourself a legitimate chance,” Miller said. “They had opportunities to miss a few and still get some success. (Ferguson) was to the line and he hit everything that he was supposed to. He did his job. They did their job. Hats off to them.
“They made us work, we made them work. We didn’t make things easy for them tonight. I was really proud of my kids. They battled hard. There was about a three-minute period in the fourth quarter that our bad offense gave them good opportunities at the offensive end. We couldn’t get stops and we couldn’t rebound.”
Senior Allen Billinger led Carbondale with 24 points and kept alive the Terriers’ hopes with 15 points and three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Senior Jordan Kelly had 17 points, senior Moe Jackson dropped in 15 and junior Sharere Lark had 10.
Althoff appeared to be on the ropes when Jackson hit a 3-pointer to give the Terriers their 41-34 lead with 5:01 to play in the third quarter.
The lead was 45-40 when the Crusaders went on an 18-4 run over the next 4:50.
Senior Rick Edwards had two putbacks, and Young scored on a driving layup ahead of the buzzer to make it 50-47 after three quarters. Carbondale cut the gap to 50-49 on Billinger’s basket to start the fourth quarter, but junior Brendon Gooch hit a 3-pointer, Goodwin had a rebound basket and Young had a 3-pointer to give Althoff a 58-49 lead with 6:07 to play.
Young, who was injured for most of the season, started his first game and finished with eight points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. He took the spot normally filled by Edwards.
“We gave Keenen the start tonight to have a quicker lineup, and it paid off for us,” Leib said. “He’s such a settling factor out there with the basketball for us.
“And Rick Edwards had one of his better games, because it was physical down there. ... He just came out there with sheer will. Rick’s one of those kids who, if he ever gets in those ‘Survivor’ series, he’s going to win the thing. You drop him out with a pair of swim trunks and a pocket knife in Alaska and he’s wearing a bear suit the next week. He made plays and was relentless.”
Althoff built a 66-56 on two free throws by Brown with 3:01 left. Carbondale fans began heading for the exits, only to delay their departure as the Terriers rallied.
Billinger hit a 3-pointer to make it 66-59 and Kelly followed with two free throws to make it 66-61 with 2:17 to play. After a Crusaders turnover, Kelly scored in the lane to make it 66-63.
Althoff recovered to take a 71-64 lead on two more free throws by Ferguson with 54.8 seconds left, but Billinger swished another 3-pointer and drew Carbondale within 71-67.
Two free throws by Ferguson made it 73-67 with 35.6 seconds remaining. Again, Billinger connected from beyond the arc and suddenly it was a 73-70 game with 28 seconds left. Ferguson made four free throws in 11 seconds to clinch the outcome.
“It’s a top-five victory,” Leib said. “We lost to (Belleville) West here back in ’04 in a heartbreaker, so we’ve got bad sectional memories here. It’s such a fun environment. Both crowds were into it. Their student section was great. It’s like playing against the Cameron Crazies or the Antlers when we were down there shooting free throws.
“Now we get to rest for 12 hours and prepare for (Mahomet-Seymour).”