After nearly pulling off a first-round stunner at the Washington Boys Basketball Tournament, St. Clair ended the event on a high note.
The eighth-seeded Bulldogs held the lead for the entire game in a 61-46 victory over seventh-seeded Ft. Zumwalt East in the tournament’s seventh-place contest Saturday at Washington High School.
St. Clair (3-9) lost to top-seeded Washington in overtime in the opening round and then again to fifth-seeded Westminster in the consolation semifinals.
The Bulldogs lost Monday at De Soto in overtime, 68-63.
“Every day, we preach to keep getting better. We were 0-3 in our last tournament and were 1-2 at this tournament. It’s not the goal we set out, but it is improvement,” said St. Clair Head Coach Casey Korn. “After we came out flat against Westminster, we had a tough practice (Friday) and had to show that it wasn’t going to affect the rest of our season. Our kids came out and played well. They executed the right way.”
Damon Arnold led the way for St. Clair with 19 points, going 5-8 from three-point range, and was named to the all-tournament team.
Reno Jones finished the game with 13 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Kyler Waldo and Darrell Martin both scored eight points.
Kevin Cox netted five points. Harley Love added four points. Keola Bursey and Wyatt Wachter both had two points and three rebounds.
“We mixed it up and rewarded some kids who practiced hard for us recently by putting them in the starting lineup,” Korn said. “The kids who normally start that didn’t start, didn’t pout. When they were called on, they came in and did their job.”
Ft. Zumwalt East (2-11) was led by Daniel Morris, who scored 16 points. Chris Johnson added 13 points.
St. Clair jumped to leads of 17-4 after one quarter and 24-12 at halftime. The Bulldogs led by 14 points midway through the second quarter.
The Lions opened the second half with a 15-4 run in a span of just over five minutes to pull to within 28-27.
The Bulldogs responded with a 14-0 run over the next four minutes to put the game away, 42-27.
“Basketball is a game of runs. You have to expect them to make a run,” Korn said. “We called a timeout with it being a one-point game. We talked about how we can let them continue their run or we can go on one of our own. The kids responded pretty well. We got some high-quality shots and played together as a team.
“We still have to get better late in games, but we extended the lead, rather than let it fold on us. It’s hard to win. We’ve been in a lot of close games and I was happy that we were able to extend the lead rather than let them come back on us.”
Korn said the Bulldogs are making progress.
“We’re going to have to work in every minute of every game for those wins to come. You can see the confidence coming from the kids. I think confidence comes from working hard, being prepared and knowing they can do different things,” Korn said. “We have a lot of inexperienced kids, so all these games coming up should help. We have 95 percent of the stuff in that we’re going to run for the rest of the year, so now it’s a matter of fine-tuning it. As long as the kids come to every game hungry, we’re going to be in a lot of them and have a chance to win them.”