Washington held off a late rally from Union to pick up the win in its boys basketball home opener Tuesday, 61-55.
The Blue Jays (3-1) topped Union (0-2) to extend a winning streak that started at the Turkey Tournament.
Washington jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the first quarter, finishing the first period up 16-11.
Union closed the gap near the end of both halves on runs of consistent three-point shooting. The Wildcats trailed Washington 30-29 at halftime.
Washington rebuilt its lead in the third quarter, taking a 47-39 advantage into the final eight minutes. The Blue Jays led by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, but Union cut the lead to just three points going into the final minute.
“They’re relentless,” Washington Head Coach Grant Young said of the Wildcats. “They stepped it up a notch there at about three minutes of the fourth quarter that we didn’t answer for a little bit, but the key was we took care of it down the stretch.”
Free throw shooting late helped the Jays seal the win as the Wildcats purposefully sent Washington to the line to prolong the game as they attempted to even the score.
Both teams felt like they faced adversity in the contest and handled it well. For Washington, it was continuing to play without starting point guard Conlan Jarvis, who led the team in scoring last season and having multiple players with a limited number of practices after the soccer season ended a week before the first game. For Union, it was playing from behind with a young squad and with a key contributor at forward, junior Wil Strubberg, playing in his first game in nearly 12 months. Strubberg last played on Dec. 13, 2016.
“I think that we’re really streaky right now,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “At the beginning of the year, we’ve got tired legs and things like that. When we’re hitting shots, everything looks good. When you’re not, it’s tough. ...We’re young and we’re learning how to play for a full 32 minutes. We did some good things. We had about a five-minute lull in there where we struggled, but I was proud of them.”
Cason Suggs led all scorers with 23 points for the Blue Jays.
Other Washington scorers included nine points for Tommy Ruether, Ryan Hoerstkamp with eight points, six each from Rett Corley and Zach Subke, five points for Alec Brinkmann and four from Zach Harms.
Suggs spent much of the game playing in the high post and either driving to the basket or drawing defenders and distributing to the other forwards.
“We really wanted to go high-low inside with our big men and we did a good job with Ryan and Cason,” Young said. “Cason did an amazing shot tonight, not just with his scoring ability, but with his passing ability. He did an amazing job for us finding the open guys inside.”
Trevor Kelly and Strubberg tied for top-scoring honors for the Wildcats with 16 points each. Kelly put up the bulk of his points running through the paint, providing a key cog in the Wildcats attack all night.
“When he uses his dribble with purpose like he did tonight, Trevor’s hard to stop,” Simmons said. “I thought he did a really good job of getting into the paint and causing help to come and scoring when he had a chance and kicking it out when he didn’t. That’s what we need Trevor to do. Trevor’s got to be a playmaker for us and he was that tonight.”
Jacob Towell and Peyton Burke both put up six points, both on a pair of three-point baskets.
Kale Crawford put up five points for Union with Caleb Mabe scoring four points, Chase Mehler two and Derek Foster one.
Burke notched one of his two threes with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter to start the Union comeback.
Strubberg made it a five-point game with another three less than 30 seconds later.
After another two, the Wildcats were within a basket in the final minute.
Ruether knocked through two free throws before Kelly drove into the lane for two to bring the Wildcats back to within three.
Union then fouled Zach Subke, who made the first of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, but did not convert the second.
However, on the ensuing possession, Strubberg was trapped against the sideline and called for a travel, giving it back to Washington with 10.6 seconds left.
Ruether again drew the foul off the in-bounds play and made both free throws to close out the win.