Boys Basketball

Althoff, Mount Vernon set for rematch in Class 3A Highland Sectional semifinals

The last time Althoff played the Mount Vernon Rams, 3-pointers rained from the sky as the Crusaders sank 18 of them in a 103-69 win on Feb. 26.

Althoff coach Greg Leib doesn’t necessarily foresee that type of performance happening again when the teams meet in the semifinals of the Class 3A Highland Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

But Leib knows for sure that the Crusaders (27-2) will be ready for Mount Vernon (18-9).

“They’re good competitors. They really are,” Leib said.

Brendon Gooch (21 points), Keenen Young (18), Tarkus Ferguson (18), Jordan Goodwin (15), Marvin Bateman (14) and C.J. Coldon (11) all reached double figures in the high-scoring extravaganza against Mount Vernon. Young and Bateman had four 3-pointers apiece.

Althoff’s 103 points matched a season-high previously set against McCluer on Jan. 22 in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East. The Crusaders also won their first meeting against the Rams, 88-56 on Jan. 15 in Mount Vernon.

“What we try to do is whatever is given to us, we try to take advantage of that,” Leib said. “When we played (Mount Vernon) the last time, we were able to hit some 3s when they really packed it in. But you can’t think that’s how this game is going to be.

“Coach (Doug) Creel is tough, man. If he was in that movie, ‘The Revenant,’ it would have been a short movie because the bear would have gotten whipped. They’re going to come out and compete. They’re going to be ready to go. We’ve got to come out and play.”

Leib isn’t certain whether the 18 3-pointers were a single-game record for Althoff, but he’s guessing they probably are.

“There have been some years we didn’t make 18 3s in a month,” he said. “I try to look that kind of stuff up, but I’m always worried about the next game.”

If Althoff wins, it will play Centralia or Columbia in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. Centralia and Columbia will meet in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Crusaders have defeated Centralia 58-50 and 55-49; they blasted Columbia 93-50 on Jan. 21 in the Chick-fil-A Classic at Belleville East.

“There’s no Cinderella in this sectional,” Leib said. “Everybody’s earned their way there and are there to do business.”

Scouting the Rams

Mount Vernon relies senior guard Braden Fitzgerrells, 6-foot-9 senior center Roiyell Nesbitt and 6-6 senior forward Malcolm Ruff.

Fitzgerrells, who has signed to play at Lindenwood-Belleville, torched the Crusaders for 32 points and six 3-pointers in the Rams’ 34-point loss in Belleville.

Fitzgerrells, who scored 20 points against Althoff in the teams’ first meeting, has unlimited range and a quick release on his shot.

“He’s just got such an arsenal,” Leib said. “He can shoot it from the volleyball line, he can take it to the rim, he passes really well. You have to be aware of where he is all the time. You can’t take anything for granted. He’s that good of a player.”

Scouting the Crusaders

Goodwin, the 6-4 junior, is Public Enemy No. 1 for most opponents. He can break down opponents with dribble-drives, hit jumpers and attack the boards as good as anyone.

Goodwin, already with numerous Division I offers from major college basketball programs, picked up a football scholarship offer from Iowa over the weekend.

“I’m happy for him,” Leib said. “If (football) is what he wants to do, that’s what he wants to do. He’s dialed in (for basketball). You’ve got to chase him out of the gym every night. He’s always been ready to play and he’ll be true to form (Tuesday) night.”

Ferguson, headed for Illinois-Chicago, is an explosive talent, 3-point threat and probably the Crusaders’ best defender. Gooch, who has signed with Southern Illinois University Carbondale, always is a threat from outside. Coldon and Young contribute everywhere on the floor, and Bateman comes off the bench to provide another 3-point threat.

“It’s March Madness and it’s a lot of fun,” Leib said. “It’s the best time of year for basketball. I hope we come out and compete and have a good showing (Tuesday), and then see what happens from there.”

Class 4A Collinsville Sectional

Alton (15-10) will face Southwestern Conference champion Edwardsville (25-4) for the third time this season in the Collinsville Sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The teams typically square off in the regional, but Edwardsville was sent south this year to compete in the East St. Louis Regional, which it won Friday with a 67-60 victory over Belleville East. Alton and Edwardsville are meeting in the sectional for the first time in 11 years.

Edwardsville defeated Alton twice in the regular season: 64-47 on Jan. 15 in Edwardsville and 61-60 on Feb. 19 in Godfrey.

Alton advanced to the sectional with a 66-62 victory over Quincy on Friday. The Redbirds trailed 62-53 with 4:11 to play, but scored the final 13 points of the game to stun the Blue Devils.

The winner Tuesday will advance to the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday against East Moline United (22-6) or Rock Island (19-8). Those teams will meet in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Moline High School.

Juniors A.J. Epenesa, Mark Smith and Oliver Stephen and senior Chrys Colley lead Edwardsville. Epenesa averages 16.7 points and 13.4 rebounds. Smith averages 14.3 points and Stephen has connected for 97 3-pointers.

Maurice Edwards, Marcus Latham and Paul Harris average in double figures for the Redbirds.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm