By Craig Vonder Haar
Missourian Sports Writer
It was another fast start for Washington during its first-round game against McCluer Wednesday at the Meramec Holiday Tournament.
The fourth-seeded Blue Jays (8-2) jumped to an 18-3 lead after one quarter, and this time, they needed every one of those points to fight off the 13th-seeded Comets at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.
Washington hit a dry spell after the first quarter, scoring just 23 points over the final 28 minutes, but still pulled off a 41-38 overtime victory.
“We had a good start. We hit some shots early and then they switched to that zone and we just put the breaks on,” said Washington Head Coach Chip Sodemann. “We missed some shots. It’s the same thing that happened against Zumwalt East (36-33 win). They went to a 1-3-1 zone and we got tight. Guys who normally make shots didn’t make any and then we started pressing a little bit.
“We were lucky to hang on, but in this tournament, I’ll take lucky. We’re moving in the right direction. We have to be better on Friday.”
Washington will play 12th-seeded Marquette (6-2) in the tournament quarterfinals Friday at 4 p.m. The Mustangs knocked off fifth-seeded Vianney Wednesday in the opening round, 52-49.
“It will be a tough match,” Sodemann said. “We’ll figure out what they do and go from there.”
The Washington-Marquette winner advances to the tournament semifinals against the CBC-Webster Groves winner Saturday at 7 p.m. The quarterfinal loser will play Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The complete tournament schedule can be found online at www.emissourian.com.
Ronnie Suggs led Washington in the scoring column with 14 points, 12 in the first half, to go with three rebounds and two steals.
Luke Schroepfer finished the game with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Brad Carpenter added eight points.
Jared Walde collected six points, 10 rebounds and two assists.
Jacob Mulkey scored one point. Luke Hasenjaeger, Austin Subke and Cory Epperson also played.
McCluer (0-6) was led by 6-1 guard Andrew Weaver, who scored 11 points. Chauncey Turner, a 6-0 guard, added 10 points.
Washington held the lead over McCluer throughout the first three quarters.
Both teams held slim leads during the fourth quarter.
The Comets led 33-31 with 34 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
With time running down, the Blue Jays missed an outside shot, but Suggs grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to tie the game 33-33 with 11 seconds left to play.
Without calling a timeout, the Comets quickly pushed the ball to the other end and missed a contested 15-foot jump shot as time ran out, sending the game to overtime.
The Blue Jays felt good about going to overtime.
“It was kind of like a breath of fresh air, a new life,” Sodemann said. “We put four minutes on the clock in practice a lot and play four-minute games. It worked out well. We came out on the right side.”
Both teams hit three-pointers early in overtime to keep the game tied, 36-36.
Washington scored its final five points from the free-throw line, three by Schroepfer and two by Walde. Schroepfer scored six of the Blue Jays’ eight points in overtime.
McCluer’s Shacquille Edwards had an open three-point shot as time ran out in overtime, but the ball rimmed in and out, giving Washington the win.
In the end, it was Washington’s defense that was the difference in the victory.
“If you’re not shooting well, your defense is what keeps you in the game. We had some big stops and rebounds,” Sodemann said. “They had some silly turnovers that I’m sure they’d like to have back, but that’s part of the game.”
The Blue Jays jumped to a 14-1 lead in the first six minutes and led 18-3 after one quarter.
“In years past, we haven’t started games so hot, so it’s nice to have some good starts this season,” Sodemann said. “We just have to figure out a way to put four good quarters together. We have to learn how to handle the basketball, keep attacking and take good shots.”
McCluer chipped away in the second and third quarters, making the score 22-14 at halftime and tied the game 26-26 after three quarters.
The Comets’ ability to slow down the Blue Jays with their zone defense allowed them to get back into the game.
“That’s the purpose of a 1-3-1, to get you out of your rhythm and to get you standing around. Coach (Brent) Rueter is a good coach. He coached at Lutheran North for a long time and won a lot of games. He definitely saw something in us to make the switch to the zone,” Sodemann said. “We made a couple of big plays. Ronnie got a big rebound at the end to tie it. Walde and Schroepfer both hit a couple of free throws. That’s what it takes to win games.”