After getting torched for 18 3-point field goals in a 34-point loss to Althoff less then two weeks ago, Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel had to be thinking he saw the best the Crusaders had to offer.
After watching Althoff dismantle his team 101-63 on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Class 3A Highland Sectional, Creel may be thinking twice.
Junior Marvin Bateman gave an early indication of things to come when he came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-point jumpers as part of a 28-point first quarter and the Crusaders never looked back in coasting past their South Seven Conference rival Rams and into the sectional title game.
With a 32-point win early in the year and a 103-69 victory on Feb. 26 over Mount Vernon, the Crusaders (28-2) never let Mount Vernon think it had a chance while playing before a large crowd on Tuesday at Highland High School.
Leading 8-7 following a 3-point field goal by Rams senior Braden Fitzjerrells with three minutes gone, Althoff scored the next 10 points and with five different players scoring four or more points, built a 28-16 lead after one quarter.
Mount Vernon (18-11), despite getting 33 points from Fitzjerrells, would get no closer the rest of the night as Althoff, ranked 24th in the nation by Max Preps, had its high-powered offense in top form for 3 1/2 quarters.
“You bet I was concerned. I think (Mount Vernon) coach Doug Creel is one of the best coaches around. Fortunately for us we were able to hit some shots early and get the game the way we like, which is to get up and down the floor,’’ Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “We were able to get some baskets in transition because of our defense.
“I thought we passed the basketball very well again tonight. This is a group of kids which like each other and they enjoy playing the game together. They share the basketball well, and tonight we were able to beat a very good Mount Vernon team.’’
The win moves Althoff into the Class 3A sectional title game at 7 p.m. Friday, where it will take on the winner of the other semifinal clash between Columbia or Centralia, which will be played on Wednesday beginning at 7 p.m.
Bateman finished the night with a team-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the 3-point line. Jordan Goodwin added 20 points, while Brendon Gooch added 19 and Tarkus Ferguson added 18.
Junior CJ Coldon added 10 points for Althoff which, along with Centralia, handed Mount Vernon six of its 12 losses this season.
“We won 18 games and had a great season. If you take away the three games with Althoff and the three times we lost to Centralia it would have been a much better season,’’ Creel said with a smile. “Althoff is a very good basketball team, and they are ranked first in the state and in the top 25 in the nation for a reason.
“They are quick, athletic, can shoot the basketball well and they are very unselfish. In order for us to have a chance tonight we needed to get off to a better start. We had some chances.... we missed a couple of layups and turned the ball over a few times. We got behind and Althoff is tough team to play catch up against because they are so athletic.’’
Showing its unselfish play, six different players scored points for the Crusaders during the final five minutes of the opening quarter when they outscored Mount Vernon 20-9.
The Crusaders catalyst, Goodwin scored off an offensive rebound to start the run and Bateman, who entered the game just a minute earlier, wasted little time as he hit the first of his seven 3-point baskets.
When Goodwin made two free throws and Ferguson scored on a layup, Althoff had scored 10 points in a period of less than two minutes and led 20-7.
Fitzjerrells did his part to keep the Rams in the game, connecting on a pair of 3-point baskets and scoring 11 of his 20 first half points in opening quarter. But When Bateman struck again from behind the 3-point arc and Coldon slashed his way through the Rams defense for a reverse layup, Althoff has a 28-16 lead after one quarter.
“Marvin (Bateman) can really shoot the basketball and when he is making a large percentage like he has for much of the season, it opens up other opportunities on offense,’’ Leib said. “I think he’s shooting around 40 percent for the season.
“But tonight we were able to get out to a quick start and it just carried over. It was a good effort by the kids.’’
Bateman, who connected on his first four 3-point shots, added two more in the second quarter as Althoff’slead continued to mount. A good indication of just how well the Crusaders shared the basketball in the first half was that Ferguson, Gooch and Bateman each scored 12 points,while Goodwin added 11.