BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) – The Crusaders of Althoff Catholic High School and head coach Greg Lieb are one of the most exciting teams in the bi-state area.

“They are a fun group,” Lieb says. “But a challenging group because they are very competitive and talented. So we try to keep them on that edge and still fresh.”

After winning the Belleville East Classic for the second year in a row, both times beating St. Louis University High School in the championship game, practice can be a bit relaxed. Every time down the floor the Crusaders’ three-man weave was finished with thundering dunks and alley-oops.

But every practice has a similar vibe according to Senior forward Brendon Gooch.

“We go out there and have fun,” Gooch says. “We’ve been playing together since 5th grade and we even all played on the same team once in 5th grade.”

For proof of just how well they get along, go to the school gym on the weekends. Chances are you will find more than a few Crusaders.

“You know on a Sunday afternoon instead of watching football they are at the Y or finding an open gym,” Lieb says.

But it’s not all about basketball. Lieb said in the fall all but two of his players were on the Althoff football team. And Gooch believes it is a positive factor.

“It definitely makes us more athletic,” Gooch says. “Especially like Tarkus (Ferguson) and Jordan (Goodwin) who played football with all that equipment holding them down so if probably helped them out a lot as far as athleticism.”

Many of those two-way players left the Illinois State Championship game on November 27 at 4 a.m. They drove through the night, made it home around 7 a.m., then were ready to play in a basketball game at 6 p.m. on November 28.

We kept it simple but still they played really well.” Lieb says.

That day they beat Edwardsville High School, who is currently ranked No. 3 among large school in St. Louis.

“This is my 18th year at Althoff and it seems just as fresh as year one,” Lieb says. “It’s not a dread. We got practice No. 32 today after school. I got up this morning thinking about practice.

Through 18 years of coaching knows exactly what will keep his team happy, he sends the boys home early from practice.

(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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