Coming off an emotional high against Washington in the opening round of the Washington Boys Basketball Tournament, St. Clair had a letdown Thursday in the consolation semifinals.
The eighth-seeded Bulldogs nearly upset top-seeded Washington in the opening round, losing in overtime, but struggled in a 65-31 setback to fifth-seeded Westminster.
“We didn’t battle like we’ve battled in almost every game this year. Our margin of error is low. If we want to compete with good teams, we have to do better,” said St. Clair Head Coach Casey Korn. “Westminster is the No. 5 seed, but they’re a good team. This tournament is rough year in and year out. Howell Central just won a tournament a week ago and they’re the No. 6 seed. We knew if we could win one out of these first two games, it would be like stealing a game as a No. 8 seed. I’m disappointed as a coach and I hope our players are disappointed as well.”
St. Clair (2-8) will play seventh-seeded Ft. Zumwalt East (2-10) in the tournament’s seventh-place game Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Westminster (6-5) and Howell Central (7-5) will play in the consolation game Saturday at 4 p.m.
The Bulldogs defeated FZE in last year’s seventh-place contest at the Washington Tournament.
“It’s the same situation as last year. We need to battle. You don’t want to go 0-3 in our tournaments. We did that at Borgia and we don’t want it to happen here,” Korn said. “We preach to the kids to compete and that’s what I hope we do.”
Reno Jones and Damon Arnold both scored eight points to lead St. Clair against Westminster.
Charlie Fuchs finished the game with six points. Darrell Martin netted five points. Kyler Waldo and Keola Bursey both had two points.
Also playing were Kevin Cox, Harley Love, Terrance Stahlman and Wyatt Wachter.
Westminster was led by Shane Benes, who scored 23 points.
Demetris Williams finished with 12 points. Collin Einertson scored 10 points. Trey Merritt scored eight points and Brett Bond had six.
“When they get healthy, they’re going to be a really good team,” Korn said of Westminster. “Benes came out and knocked down his first three shots. I thought after that, we did a better job of contesting shots. They missed some shots, but we didn’t do a good enough job boxing out and getting the rebound.”
Led by 12 points from Benes, the Wildcats jumped to an 18-5 lead midway through the second quarter. They built the lead to 23-7 and then 31-13 at halftime.
The score was 49-17 after three quarters.
St. Clair was not able to get a consistent offensive going.
“They came out in a pressure man-to-man and they bumped us off our spots. They were getting after us,” Korn said. “In that situation, you have to be strong enough to hold on to the ball and make the right play.”
Despite the setback against Westminster, Korn likes the direction the Bulldogs are headed.
“We know we’re still going to hit road bumps. The Washington game would have been a great win for our program. It wasn’t a terrible loss,” Korn said. “We knew there still were going to be challenges ahead against good teams. Hopefully it’s a learning experience for our kids. More than anything else, they know they have to bring everything they have every night.”
Sixth-seeded Francis Howell Central cruised to a 56-36 win over Ft. Zumwalt East in Thursday’s other consolation semifinal game.
Justin Hayden led the Spartans with 18 points. Tre Curry added 10 points.
Chris Johnson scored 13 points for Zumwalt East.