As the No. 3 seed for the 36th Annual Meramec Holiday Basketball Tournament, Washington hoped for a better showing during the weeklong showcase.
But an opening round loss to No. 14 Parkway West derailed any hopes of making a run deep in the 16-team tournament at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.
Washington (6-4) suffered a 56-41 loss Friday to Parkway West in the first round.
The Blue Jays bounced back Saturday for a 54-39 win over No. 11 Marquette, but were eliminated Sunday with a loss to No. 7 Lafayette, 46-42.
“These games, playing this type of competition, is going to help us down the road,” said Washington Head Coach Grant Young. “It’s not these games in December that matter, it’s the ones in February and March. These games are going to prepare us for that.”
Washington played all three tournament games without senior starting guard Jacob Mulkey, who has missed five straight games with an injured ankle.
The hope is that Mulkey will return for Friday’s home contest against Timberland.
“We’ve missed Mulkey, who’s a big key in our offense,” Young said. “He’s a vocal player. He plays the post when (Austin) Subke comes out. He plays the wing. He plays the guard spot in our matchup. He’s a senior leader who plays with so much patience and confidence. He’s a calming spirit as a senior. The good thing is it’s given our younger players a lot of experience, which is going to help us.”
After starting the season with a 5-0 record, the Blue Jays are 1-4 in their last five games.
“You’re going to have rough spots during the season. It’s how you come back from those rough spots,” Young said. “We had a great start to the year, starting 5-0 with some good wins against good teams. Now we’re in a little bit of a funk. The good thing is we now get some practice time and come back Friday and hopefully get ourselves back in the win column.”
The lower-seeded Longhorns (4-4) pulled off the upset Friday over Washington in the opening round.
“They’ve played against good competition and lost some games early. We played some ugly basketball defensively and offensively,” Young said. “We can’t allow a team to have extra possessions. When you have a defensive stop and you give them an extra chance by giving up an offensive rebound, that’s what killed us.”
Wyatt Yess, a 6-6 freshman forward, scored 27 points, going 13-13 from the free-throw line, to lead the Longhorns.
“He got some offensive rebounds that he took right back up. He’s very lengthy around the basket,” Young said. “That’s where we need to make more solid box outs. You can tell he’s been in the weight room a lot as a freshman coming in. He’s a really smooth player.”
The Blue Jays, who trailed by 15 points late in the third quarter, made the score 47-39 with 7:15 left in the game, but got no closer.
Ronnie Suggs finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds. Brad Carpenter added 12 points.
Trey Walsh chipped in with four points and three assists. Isaiah West scored three points. Mike Morgan, Patrick Menke and Austin Subke each had two points. Morgan added five rebounds.
Jake Socha added 14 points for Parkway West.
The Longhorns were 17-19 from the foul line. Washington was 13-15 from the free-throw line and 4-18 from three-point range.
“Offensively, we had to do more of what they did to us,” Young said. “We didn’t move the ball as much as we should have. That ball movement will get our shooters open more and open gaps for us to attack the basket.”
Washington came back to eliminate Marquette on Saturday.
“We needed a win. That was the biggest thing. When you lose a couple of games in a row, it’s tough. We had to find a way to win, and that’s what we did,” Young said. “We weren’t as sharp. I thought we were sharper (Sunday) playing a really good team. We actually had a size advantage on Marquette. They had more shooters. We had to spread out defensively.”
The Blue Jays held leads of 12-5 after one quarter, 25-21 at halftime and 43-26 after three quarters.
Suggs collected 28 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Morgan added eight points and four rebounds. Carpenter had seven points and two assists.
Walsh finished with six points. West scored three points. Menke had two points and three rebounds. Subke also had three rebounds.
Brooks Gerrity led Marquette (3-4) with nine points.
The Blue Jays were 17-22 from the foul line and 5-16 from three-point territory.
“It was nice to get the win and get that losing streak over with,” Young said. “It gave us some confidence.”
Washington ended the tournament Sunday with the loss to Lafayette.
The Blue Jays held a 39-37 advantage, but a three-pointer by Lafayette’s Nate Messer with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter gave the Lancers the lead for good.
Messer scored 23 points for Lafayette (6-2).
“With about three minutes to go, we had a two-point lead and I talked to my coaching staff about if we wanted to go with our delay game, and we decided no, we wanted one more score,” Young said. “The Messer kid hit some shots late that really hurt us. He got on fire late. We lost him a few times. We helped over too much on the high post when we should have been on him as a shooter. Those are experiences we’ll learn from. We did a good job in the first half of not letting him have many touches.”
Washington had chances down the stretch, but couldn’t pull even.
“We just went stagnant over the last three minutes,” Young said. “We had some really good looks at the basket. I thought our kids executed the plays pretty good when we ran them. We just missed some shots that we needed to go in.”
Suggs paced the Blue Jays with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Morgan added 11 points, three rebounds and three steals.
Carpenter finished with 10 points. Subke and West both scored two points.
Jacob Huxol, Menke and Walsh also played.
Washington was 8-10 from the foul line and 6-20 from three-point territory.
“We had opportunities. Our kids played hard. We executed pretty well defensively. We caused fits with our matchup,” Young said. “We’re undersized every game, but our matchup is keeping us in there because we’re trying to outsmart people with how we’re guarding.”
Washington’s girls and boys host Timberland Friday. The varsity girls game starts at 4 p.m. followed by the varsity boys at 5:30 p.m. The JV games will be played in the little Blue Jay gym.
“I haven’t lost any confidence in our kids, but I think our kids have lost confidence in themselves. They’re searching to find that shot back. It will come,” Young said. “It’s only December. It’s the longest season of any season you play. We have a lot of time left that we’ll be able to make up and get better throughout the rest of the year.”