Survive and advance.
That’s the goal for every high school basketball team during the postseason, and that’s what Washington did in the semifinals of the Class 5 District 10 Boys Tournament Tuesday at Rolla High School.
The top-seeded Blue Jays (19-9) started slow, but picked up their play in the second half for a 58-42 victory over fifth-seeded Lebanon.
“At this point, it’s all about surviving and advancing,” said Washington Head Coach Chip Sodemann. “Lebanon only had a couple of wins, but they were talented. They’ve lost some close games. At this point, everyone is going to bring their best effort because tomorrow is not guaranteed. They had one district game already under their belt and we were a little tight in the first half. I was proud of the way our guys picked it up in the second half and got the win.”
While the Blue Jays started a bit slow offensively, their defense was the key.
The Yellowjackets (2-24) struggled at times to even attempt shots against Washington’s zone defense, turning the ball over on numerous occasions.
“Our length bothered them. We were bigger than them at most positions,” Sodemann said. “We did a good job getting steals and getting to loose balls, which led to some opportunities on the offensive end.”
Luke Schroepfer led the way for Washington with 21 points. He was 10-11 from the free-throw line.
Ronnie Suggs finished the game with 17 points.
Patrick Menke added six points.
Brad Carpenter and Jacob Mulkey both scored five points.
Jared Walde chipped in with four points.
Luke Hasenjaeger and Austin Subke didn’t score, but played significant minutes.
“It’s a sign of a good team when everyone plays their role, which is what we did,” Sodemann said. “We know that Luke (Schroepfer) and Ronnie need to score, as long as they let the game come to them. Menke and Mulkey stepped up and made some plays. Brad played his role well. As long as we continue to play our roles, we’ll have a chance.”
Greg Archer paced Lebanon with 10 points.
Chad Howerton added eight points. JT Dorris and Isaac Gillen both scored six points.
The two teams combined to miss just three free throws in the game.
Washington was 19-20 from the foul line. Lebanon was 9-11.
“I’ll take that any day,” Sodemann said. “That’s what it takes to win a district championship.”
Leading 12-7 after one quarter, Washington scored the first six points of the second quarter for an 18-7 advantage and led 20-12 with 4:48 remaining in the first half.
Lebanon answered with a 9-5 run to cut the lead to 25-21 with 1:11 left in the second quarter.
Washington took a 27-21 lead into halftime.
The Blue Jays went on a 14-3 run in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to increase their lead to 41-24.
A three-pointer by Carpenter, a three-point play by Menke and buckets by Walde, Schroepfer and Suggs highlighted the run.
A three-pointer by Suggs helped Washington to a 44-30 lead after three quarters.
Lebanon pulled to within 12 points early in the fourth quarter, but a three-pointer by Schroepfer with 6:43 left on the clock put the game away, 47-32.
“We made some adjustments at halftime that worked out in the second half,” Sodemann said. “Our guys did a good job staying with the game plan and executing.”
Third-seeded Waynesville (14-13) defeated second-seeded Rolla in the other semifinal contest, 56-45.
D.J. Hargrow, a 5-7 senior guard, led Waynesville with 14 points.
Kellieon Williams, a 6-8 junior forward, and Juwan Morgan, a 6-7 sophomore forward, both scored 13 points.
Caleb Copeland, a 6-3 sophomore forward, scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace Rolla.
Tyler Kean, a 6-3 junior guard, scored 12 points on four three-pointers.
Rolla (13-13) held leads of 14-13 after one quarter and 26-25 at halftime.
Waynesville opened the third quarter with a 16-3 run and led 41-35 heading into the final eight minutes.