A well-rested St. Clair team gave Washington a run for its money Monday in the opening round of the Washington Boys Basketball Tournament.
But the top-seeded Blue Jays prevailed over the eighth-seeded Bulldogs at Washington High School, 64-49.
“I remember last year St. Clair was a seven seed and gave Westminster fits in the first round. We knew we were in for a tough game,” said Washington Head Coach Chip Sodemann. “They got us taking poor shots early. We did a better job in the second half settling down. They fought hard all the way until the end. I was proud of the way our guys responded to it.”
Washington (11-4) plays fifth-seeded Bayless (9-3) in the championship semifinals Friday at 6 p.m.
“Bayless gave us fits last year. We hit a couple of late threes to put us over the top,” Sodemann said. “We’re going to be in for a hard-fought game.”
St. Clair (3-7) takes on fourth-seeded St. Charles (10-5) in the consolation semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m.
“We have another tough game, but we’re excited about the challenge,” said St. Clair Head Coach Casey Korn. “We were right there with a really good Washington team. We got a lot better over break. Wins and losses haven’t shown that yet. I’m proud of the way our kids didn’t quit. They competed.”
Luke Schroepfer led all players with 18 points for the Blue Jays, 13 in the first half.
Jacob Mulkey finished the game with 11 points. Ronnie Suggs added 10 points.
Brad Carpenter pitched in with seven points. Jared Walde and Luke Hasenjaeger both netted five points. Austin Subke added four points. Christian Hardesty scored two points. Cory Epperson had one point.
“We know teams are going to key in on Luke and guard Ronnie really hard. We have to have guys with the confidence to step up and make some plays. Mulkey did that tonight. Cory Epperson had a couple of nice plays,” Sodemann said. “We had guys with the confidence to contribute and that’s what we need down the stretch.”
The Bulldogs also had three players in double figures with Brandon York leading the way with 11 points. Adam Brott and Ben Feddersen both scored 10 points.
Evan Murphy finished the game with six points. Neyko Dominguez added five points. Reno Jones, Austin Gotway and Will Rolley each had two points.
“Ben had an ankle injury early in the season, which slowed him down. He’s starting to use his body more and understand the pace of the game. If he does what we need him to do, I’ll be really happy,” Korn said. “We need that inside threat. Brandon is more of a shooter. If Ben can get in the post and score, it’s really going to help our team.”
Washington held leads of 18-13 after one quarter, 31-19 at halftime and 47-34 after three quarters.
It was St. Clair’s first game since the Sullivan Shootout Dec. 22. It was the Blue Jays’ sixth game since that point.
“If you’re playing well, you want to keep playing. If you’re not, a break allows you to work on some things,” Sodemann said. “We knew this was going to be a grind. It’s been a tough stretch since Christmas and we still have another 10 days. We have to make sure we’re all on the same page and ready to go.”
St. Clair was prepared, but the Blue Jays made the plays.
“I’ve seen Washington play seven times. It seems like they’ve played four times the games we’ve played. Our stretch is coming up,” Korn said. “We knew they were a good team. We did not execute our scouting report early. We left Luke (Schroepfer) open for a couple of shots and when we run our zone defense, we have to find Carpenter. We executed better in the second half. You can’t hold a player like Suggs to zero points, but Adam Brott did an unbelievable job guarding him. I was extremely proud of his effort.
“We didn’t make shots and they did. We tried to make somebody other than Schroepfer, Carpenter and Suggs score. You have to keep Walde off the boards. Their other kids made shots when they needed to make shots.”
Bayless knocked off St. Charles in Monday’s other first-round contest, 60-52.
Patrick Triplett, a 6-4 junior guard, collected 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Bronchos.
Munir Hirkic, a 5-10 senior guard, added 16 points. Edin Mehmedovic, a 6-4 junior forward, scored 11 points. Muhamed Poljo, a 6-4 junior forward, had 10 points.