Washington gave the top-ranked boys basketball team in Class 5 all it could handle and more, but fell short in sectional action Wednesday night.
Hickman, ranked No. 1 in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 5 state poll, survived a huge scare from the Blue Jays, winning in overtime at Camdenton High School, 53-49.
“It was a great high school basketball game. It was a game our kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives,” said Washington Head Coach Chip Sodemann. “It just goes to show when our guys were playing together and can shoot the ball with some confidence, we can play with anybody in the state on any given night. It says a lot about our team and how our guys sacrificed for one another.”
The Kewpies (25-2) advance to play Kickapoo (22-6) in the Class 5 quarterfinals Saturday at 6 p.m. at Drury University in Springfield.
Washington (19-10) fell behind 16-7 after one quarter against Hickman, but the final three quarters and overtime were close with both teams holding slim leads.
Leading the charge for the Blue Jays was senior guard Luke Schroepfer, who scored 22 of Washington’s 27 points in the second half and overtime. He finished the game with 25 points, going 9-9 from the free-throw line.
“That’s what you expect from a senior like Luke,” Sodemann said. “He’s played a lot of basketball. He’s going to be successful at whatever he does. He’s a bright kid and a hard worker.”
Schroepfer expected to have a big game.
“I started picking it up in the second half. I didn’t play as well as I thought I would in the first half,” Schroepfer said. “I was feeling it in warm-ups. I knew I was going to shoot well. In the second half, I got some open looks and started knocking shots down. I got into a rhythm.”
Jacob Mulkey also gave the Blue Jays a spark with nine points, seven in the first half.
Ronnie Suggs added seven points. Brad Carpenter scored six points. Jared Walde had two points.
Luke Hasenjaeger, Patrick Menke and Austin Subke also played.
“From practice, to on the bus, to in the locker room, our guys had a confidence about themselves,” Sodemann said. “We had our opportunities. We didn’t make plays when we needed to and they had a couple of guys who did. You give credit to them. They’re ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason. They made plays when they needed to and that’s what good teams do.”
Jimmy Whitt, a 6-2 sophomore guard, paced the Kewpies with 15 points.
Cecil Williams added 10 points. Douglas Johnson and Mason Murray both had nine points.
“I don’t know how many points Whitt averages per game, but we made him earn everything he got,” Sodemann said. “Our defense was good enough to win. We just didn’t make some plays down the stretch offensively.”
Washington was 19-20 from the free-throw line. Hickman was 15-19.
There were plenty of dramatic moments at the end of regulation and in overtime.
With Hickman leading 40-36, Schroepfer nailed a three-pointer and followed that with a pair of free throws to give the Blue Jays a 41-40 lead with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Kewpies tied the game 41-41 on a free throw with 30 seconds remaining.
Washington had a couple of opportunities in the final 30 seconds to pull ahead.
A key blocked shot by Whitt in the lane with under 10 seconds left may have been a game-saver for the Kewpies.
The Blue Jays still had the ball under the basket they were shooting at with 4.3 seconds left, but didn’t get a good attempt as time ran out.
“The play was designed as a misdirection play,” Sodemann said. “The guy who was supposed to be open was open and we just didn’t hit him. We had them in overtime, too.”
A basket by Suggs with 1:00 left in overtime gave Washington a 47-46 lead.
Hickman took the lead for good, 48-47, on a basket by Whitt with 36 seconds left.
The Blue Jays turned the ball over with 13 seconds left to play and the Kewpies hit five free throws in the final seconds.
“We thought all the way we were going to win. We had no doubts. We knew we could beat them. We knew what we did would work against them,” Schroepfer said. “It was a great game to be a part of. It was close. It’s everything you want in playing any sport. Play after play, we kept answering each other. It was fun.”
Washington opened the second quarter on a 15-5 run to take a brief 22-21 lead with 1:10 left in the period.
Hickman lead 24-22 at halftime.
Schroepfer nailed a pair of three-pointers in the first 54 seconds of the third quarter, giving the Blue Jays a 28-24 advantage, their largest lead of the game. Hickman came back to grab a 33-32 lead after three quarters and led 38-32 with 5:30 remaining in the fourth quarter before the Blue Jays rallied down the stretch.
“I told our kids in the locker room after the game, if you get anything from me this year, it’s about working hard and being tough,” Sodemann said. “If this night was the worst night of our guy’s life, they’re going to be OK.”
It was a memorable season for Washington.
“We had some ups and downs, like you always do. If you look at the tournaments we played in, we made it to the finals at Borgia, we made it to the last day at Meramec and we won our tournament and our district tournament,” Sodemann said. “It’s been a good year for our guys. I couldn’t be happier for our seniors. Only one team gets to go out on a high night, but it was a positive year.”
It was the final game at WHS for seniors Schroepfer, Walde and Hasenjaeger.
“We’re going to miss our seniors big time. Luke for his points, shooting ability and ball handling. Jared and Hazy for their leadership and toughness. The guys really respected them in the locker room,” Sodemann said. “Our guys coming back have some experience now. We have Ronnie coming back. Jacob Mulkey, Patrick Menke, Austin Subke, Brad Carpenter, those are guys who have some experience. They need to get better individually over the summer. Hopefully they come back next year with some confidence.”