It was a matchup many area basketball fans have been waiting for all season.
And it lived up to the hype.
Playing in the championship game of the Class 5 District 10 Boys Basketball Tournament Thursday at Northwest High School, top-seeded Waynesville held off third-seeded Washington in overtime, 60-54.
It was a rematch of last season’s district title game, won by Washington.
“You have to credit our kids for getting to this game. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs against a tough schedule. We peaked at the right time of the year,” said Washington Head Coach Grant Young. “We had some great opportunities to win the game. Waynesville did a great job executing at crucial times. Our seniors have left a good legacy.”
Waynesville (24-2) knew it would have its hands full against a red-hot Blue Jays team.
“I really thought this was going to be a huge hurdle for us to get over. (Ronnie) Suggs, (Brad) Carpenter and the rest of the bunch are really good. Coach Young has done a fantastic job,” said Waynesville Head Coach Chris Pilz. “I told a lot of people that we had the toughest district championship game in the state, trying to get by Washington with the way they were playing.”
With the score tied 49-49, Washington (16-11) had the ball and called a timeout with 6.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
When play resumed, the Blue Jays got an open three-point look from the corner, but missed, sending the game into overtime.
The key basket of overtime was by Waynesville’s Jaron Alexander, who drilled a three-pointer with 2:58 left to give the Tigers a 54-49 lead.
Washington pulled to within 55-51 on a basket by Suggs with 1:33 left, but got no closer.
“We left everything on the court. We just didn’t get enough breaks go our way,” Young said. “We stuck with the game plan and played together as a team. We had many opportunities to win against a very good team that has the potential to win a state championship. It’s tough for the kids after giving so much heart.”
Ronnie Suggs led the way for Washington with 19 points. Brad Carpenter finished with 12 points. Mike Morgan scored nine points.
Patrick Menke netted six points. Jacob Mulkey and Trey Walsh both scored three points. Dane Meyer had two points.
Juwan Morgan, a 6-8 junior forward, and Joe Johnson, a 5-8 sophomore guard, both scored 17 points for Waynesville.
“We missed some shots in the first quarter, but our guys held strong and hit some in the second half,” Pilz said. “There’s no guarantees, but this was a huge hurdle to clear. Sometimes you have to get a little lucky. Hopefully we can go on and play for a while.”
It was another fast start for the Blue Jays, who led 16-9 after one quarter, 31-27 at halftime and 43-41 after three quarters.
With the Tigers’ ability to defend the three-point shot with their length and athletic ability, Washington found other ways to score.
“The good thing is that we only got down 16-7. Last year, we were down 21-2. Some of the guys were talking at halftime about that,” Pilz said. “You have to tip your hat to Washington. I know they’re hurting. We were on the other side last year. I’m proud of our guys. Sometimes when you’re expected to win, it’s harder to do.”
Waynesville plays in the Class 5 sectional round against either Hickman or Jefferson City Wednesday at Camdenton at 7:45 p.m.
“I don’t care who it is. I like our chances. I think Morgan is as good of a player there is in the state,” Pilz said. “I know Tatum (Chaminade’s Jayson Tatum) is good. I know Witt (Hickman’s Jimmy Witt) is good. Suggs is awfully good. But Morgan has to be mentioned with those guys. When you have the best guy on the floor, you have a chance every night.”
Young appreciates the effort his team gave him this season.
“It’s all about what you do in the postseason, and we made it to the district championship game. You always want to go for a conference championship and tournament championships, but the ultimate goal is the postseason. We put ourselves in position to be here, we got here and we had a chance,” Young said. “It’s a good group of kids. I’m glad I got the opportunity to coach these seniors. I appreciate all their hard work and what they’ve done for our program.”