By PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
The Rams will try to stay unbeaten in South Seven play when they travel to Belleville Althoff tonight.
The Rams and Crusaders enter the matchup with identical records of 4-2 overall and 1-0 in league play. Mt. Vernon topped arch rival Centralia 40-30 in its conference opener while the Crusaders scored a win at Marion last week.
The success of the Althoff football team has meant the basketball team has been without a couple of big bodies early in the season. Erik Furmanek (6-4, 235 pounds) and Erik Krause (6-6, 235) haven’t played yet this season for the Crusaders. Both are expected to play tonight.
“I think what’s most impressive and still what’s kind of up in the air is they’ve had a lot of success, and they still have not played a game yet with their full roster,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “Their football team went to the state finals, and their two big kids Krause and Furmanek have not played this year.”
Kevin Renner leads the Althoff offense scoring 15.2 points a game. The Crusaders have also received a big offensive contribution from Brendon Gooch. The freshman averages 10.8 points each game. Renner played the shooting guard position a season ago. This season he will play more at the point guard.
“He’s a solid, solid guard,” Gamber said. “He started for them last year. He can shoot it pretty well. He handles it. He’s got a little deceptive quickness. You look at him, and you don’t think he’s all that quick and then he blows around you.”
Althoff opened the season splitting four games during a Thanksgivingtournament in Effingham. The Crusaders beat Effingham and St. Anthony while losing to Charleston and Robinson. Most recently they tallied roadwins at Marion and Breese Mater Dei. The Crusaders rallied late from adouble-digit deficit in the Mater Dei matchup.
“When Althoff was down by double digits, to me, (Gooch) is who got them back in the game,” Gamber said. “They spread the floor, and he just went and attacked and kicked.”
The matchup starts with the junior varsity game at 6:15 p.m.