BELLEVILLE — The Marion Wildcats owned the lead for only 10 seconds in the first half, but it was enough to propel them to a 61-53 South Seven Conference win over Althoff on Friday night.
Althoff (2-6, 0-4 South Seven) scored the game’s first five points, but Marion (7-2, 2-1) closed the first half with a 7-0 run to take a 26-25 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats never trailed after the break, at one time leading by double digits in the third quarter, and never by fewer than six in the final frame.
“We were rolling pretty good early, but we just started missing shots,” said Althoff coach Greg Leib. “We just got to thinking about it too much.
“It’s a simple game, and I just did not get the kids where they needed to be. That’s why we are looking at an eight-point loss at home.”
The loss snapped a 17-game Althoff win streak against Marion. The Wildcats’ last win over Althoff came on Jan. 3, 2008.
“I knew it had been a long time,” said first-year Marion coach Gus Gillespie. “But the deal is, Althoff has been really good, and any time you can win on the road in this league, it is big. I thought we played a very good second, third and fourth quarter.”
The Crusaders’ Kahlid Muhamaad drained a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers and scored eight points overall as Althoff led 15-7 after one.
Justin Strong split the lane for a basket to give Althoff a 25-19 lead with 2:41 left in the first half.
But the Crusaders would not score again before the break, as a bucket from Justin Saddoris 10 seconds before the buzzer sent the Wildcats into the lead.
The momentum continued to belong to Marion in the third quarter. Jaden Lacey scored off a turnover to put Marion ahead 43-33 with 2:40 to go.
A 3-pointer by Althoff’s Burke Watts made it 50-44 early on the final quarter.
Marion followed with a 9-3 run and was never really threatened again.
Althoff’s inability to keep Marion off the offensive glass hurt the Crusaders.
The Wildcats grabbed 14 offensive rebounds — topped by six from Terrell Henderson, who led both teams with 13 boards overall — many of which led to second-chance points.
“Fourteen offensive boards are hard to live with,” said Leib. “But that’s a correctable error, and we need to get better at that.”
Marion’s Saddoris topped all scorers with 22 points. Lacy added 12 for the Wildcats.
Burke Watts paced Althoff with 13 points off the bench. Muhammad managed just two more after his hot start to finish with 10.
Muhamad did lead Althoff with eight rebounds.
“Their kids hit shots when they needed to hit shots,” said Leib. “The responsibility lies with me.”