Althoff’s Jordan Goodwin enjoyed a game to remember Friday in the title tilt of the Class 3A Highland Sectional Tournament.
Goodwin scored 15 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter and Althoff held off a late Centralia comeback attempt and went on for a 67-53 win before an estimated crowd of 2,400 at a jam-packed Highland High School.
With teammates Tarkus Ferguson, CJ Coldon and Marvin Bateman all spending considerable amounts of time on the bench in foul trouble, the 6-foot-3 Goodwin put the top-ranked Class 3A team in the state on his shoulders. Goodwin scored 15 of the Crusaders’ 19 points in the third quarter and 20 of his 32 points in the second half as he led Althoff to a big win to keep their quest alive.
“When you have a horse like Jordan you ride him for as long as you can. For a period tonight, he carried us. You wouldn’t want to ride a donkey,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “Even when we were up 12 and 14 points tonight, you knew that Centralia wouldn’t quit simply because of the kind of coach that Lee (Bennett) is and the type of kids that he has playing for him.”
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“We were just fortunate to make the plays when we needed to. It was a team effort.”
The win is the third of the season for Althoff (29-2) over its South Seven Conference rivals and moves it one game away from a return trip to the Class 3A State Tournament next weekend in Peoria. Blocking the Crusaders’ path is Springfield Southeast, which pulled off a minor upset by besting Springfield Lanphier 62-57 on Friday to win the Taylorville Sectional.
Althoff will play Springfield Southeast in the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional on Tuesday at the Springfield Prairie Capital Convention Center beginning at 7 p.m.
Goodwin gave the highly partisan Centralia crowd an indication of what kind of night it would be early in the first quarter. Playing with a sense of urgency, Goodwin grabbed five offensive rebounds in the first quarter and combined with senior Keenen Young for 14 points as Althoff grabbed a 19-9 lead.
Young, who added 16 points, made a pair of 3-point shots while Goodwin scored twice inside and added a 3-point basket of his own to lead the charge.
“This was probably the biggest game I’ve played in. I had to do what I could to help my team come out on top,” Goodwin said while clasping one of the nets following the game. “Centralia? We knew it would be tough. They always play us tough and we knew it would be very physical.”
“We were just prepared to do whatever it took to win tonight.”
Junior D’Aaron Owens led Centralia with 20 points, 16 coming in the second half, when Centralia (27-4) cut the Crusaders lead to six points and had two chances to get even closer midway in the fourth quarter.
With Goodwin and Young continuing to lead the offense, Althoff led 30-22 at halftime with the duo combining for 23 of the 30 points.
The third quarter proved to be a battle of the elite as Goodwin and Owens put on an offensive show. On four consecutive trips down the floor and five of six, Owens and Goodwin traded baskets much to the delight of the huge crowd.
Althoff led 49-41 entering the final quarter before Centralia pulled even closer. With Althoff leading 52-41 following a free throw by Young, Orphans senior Tyriq Biklberry scored on three straight Centralia possessions as the Orphans cut the Crusaders lead to 53-47 with just under four minutes left in the game.
Centralia then had a chance to cut the lead to four, but a missed layup gave Althoff the ball back. Young hit another free throw and Goodwin canned a pair of charity tosses as the Crusaders took a 56-47 lead.
Owens cut the lead to seven points on a short range jumper, but on the Crusaders next possession, Young was fouled again. The Crusaders senior made the first but missed the second. But Coldon, a non-factor on the offensive end up to that point, grabbed the offensive rebound, made the basket and was fouled. The junior completed the 3-point play to put Althoff 60-49 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
“That was a big part of the game. We battled back and played well to get back in the game. We were down six and had a layup that we didn’t convert on. That was a big shot,” Centralia coach Lee Bennett said. “I was proud of our effort. But for us to have a chance we needed to make some shots from the perimeter early and we didn’t do that.”
Centralia would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
The Crusaders defense was outstanding all night. Cemtralia, which made five 3-point baskets in the first quarter in its semifinal game win over Columbia, made just one 3-point shot all night against Althoff on Friday.
“Our defense was outstanding all night,” Leib said, his voice cracking with emotion. “You don’t play good defense with your talent. You play good defense with heart and determination. We had that tonight.”