Althoff has used brute strength to overpower many opponents this season.
On Friday, the Crusaders relied on their finesse and shooting skills, burying 18 3-pointers in a 103-69 victory over Mount Vernon in the South Seven Conference finale for both teams before a capacity crowd.
It was Senior Night at Althoff, and their three senior starters, Brendon Gooch, Keenen Young and Tarkus Ferguson, led the way. Gooch had 21 points and three 3-pointers, Young had 18 points and four 3-pointers and Ferguson had 18 points and three 3-pointers.
Junior Jordan Goodwin finished with 15 points and one 3-pointer, junior Marvin Bateman had 14 points and four 3-pointers and junior C.J. Coldon chipped in with 11 points and one 3-pointer. Junior Bryson Strong’s 3-pointer with 2:56 to play in the game put the Crusaders (25-2 overall, 10-0 South Seven) over the century mark for the second time this season.
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Senior Malik Easley converted the Crusaders’ final 3-pointer, their 18th of the game. Mount Vernon (16-10, 5-5) made seven 3-pointers as the teams combined for 25.
We were going to come out and play just like every normal game. Keenen (Young) came out hot, Tark (Tarkus Ferguson) came out hot, Jordan (Goodwin) played unselfish and Marvin (Bateman) came in and hit shots. It was an all-around team effort.
Althoff senior Brendon Gooch
“We were going to come out and play just like every normal game,” said the 6-foot-6 Gooch, who had 14 points at halftime as the Crusaders built an overwhelming 55-26 lead. “Keenen came out hot, Tark came out hot, Jordan (Goodwin) played unselfish and Marvin (Bateman) came in and hit shots. It was an all-around team effort.”
Althoff’s performance impressed veteran Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel.
“They’re pretty good,” Creel said. “Truthfully, they’ve lost one game, and that was to a nationally ranked team (Chaminade). We hoped maybe they weren’t interested in us tonight, but they were. They shot well, they played hard. It’s obvious they’re better than us.
“They can all make plays and they’re unselfish. That makes them pretty good. ... They’re very good at sharing the ball, passing it around the basket. For us to compete and play with them, we needed them to be off their game tonight. And they were not. They’re good enough to win it all. When they play hard and get after it, they’re as good as anybody.”
Rams senior guard Braden Fitzgeralls, a Lindenwood-Belleville recruit, led all scorers with 32 points and six 3-pointers. Roiyell Nesbit had 12 points and Malcolm Ruff had 10.
“Holy cow,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said of Fitzgeralls’ outburst. “That’s the poor-man’s version of (New York Knicks star) Jimmer Fredette. He scores from anywhere and everywhere. C.J. worked on him, too. He’s hitting shots from the volleyball line. They would have to redefine what a 3-pointer is if everybody shot like him. He has no fear and he’s going to be a great addition to Lindenwood-Belleville.”
Althoff wiped out all doubt about the outcome of the game in the first quarter, racing to a 29-13 lead on a basket by Young with 1:53 to play. The lead swelled to 49-20 on a dunk by Ferguson with 2:32 remaining in the second quarter. A 3-pointer and a free throw by Gooch and a basket by Bateman made it 55-24 in the final seconds of the half.
Truthfully, they’ve lost one game, and that was to a nationally ranked team (Chaminade). We hoped maybe they weren’t interested in us tonight, but they were. They shot well, they played hard. It’s obvious they’re better than us. They can all make plays and they’re unselfish. That makes them pretty good.
Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel on the Crusaders
Althoff had 10 3-pointers in the first half.
“We worked on the 3-point contest this week. Maybe that contributed to it,” cracked Crusaders coach Greg Leib. “The guys just shot in rhythm. Those shots don’t fall and it’s a different ballgame. We do a lot of shooting, and they do a good job with it. Eighteen (3-pointers). I didn’t know it was that many. I knew it was a lot, though.”
Leib complimented the Crusaders’ hunger.
“We’ve got some great seniors and we didn’t want to leave a chapter unfinished in their careers here at Althoff,” Leib said. “They’ve had a great regular season. We talked about that in the locker room. The guys came out and did a great job. If they continue that effort, they’re going to be real happy with who they are as a basketball team.”
Young was one of many who set the tone in the first half as he had 10 points and two 3-pointers as Althoff surged to its 29-point halftime lead.
“We had a really good week of practice shooting the ball, so we were pretty confident in our shots falling tonight,” Young said. “And it was Senior Night, so a lot of the guys were fired up and ready to play. It really just felt like another game, but it was special.”