It was a statement win for the Washington Blue Jays Friday at the 60th Annual St. Francis Borgia Thanksgiving Tournament.
Playing in the championship semifinals, the fifth-seeded Blue Jays knocked off top-seeded and two-time defending Class 5 state champion McCluer North, 56-51.
Washington (2-1) snapped McCluer North’s 27-game winning streak.
The Stars’ last loss came against Borgia in the championship game of last year’s Turkey Tournament, 48-46.
“Our guys should be proud of themselves. They feel good. They’ve earned it. They’ve worked hard in practice. We’ve got a real competitive group who plays hard together,” said Washington Head Coach Chip Sodemann. “I think people will be talking about us now. We just have to stay hungry and take it one game at a time.”
The Blue Jays were confident they could pull off the upset.
“We knew we could do something special. We were hyped up and ready to go. Everybody was ready,” said Washington senior Jared Walde. “We’re just a lot more mature and a lot older. We’re more experienced and we’re buying into what our coach is telling us. We have faith in it.”
McCluer North (2-1) held a 43-41 lead after three quarters, but the Blue Jays outscored the Stars 15-8 over the final eight minutes.
Washington hit big shots, both from the field and from the free-throw line, down the stretch.
The Blue Jays were 9-10 from the foul line during the contest.
Ronnie Suggs and Luke Hasenjaeger both converted from the foul line in the closing seconds for WHS to help seal the win.
“Down the stretch, we had to make some adjustments. We called some timeouts,” Sodemann said. “They were doing a good job against our zone to start. We made some adjustments there. We came up with opportunistic rebounds and Carpenter hit a big three late. Hasenjaeger hit some free throws down the stretch. We got them standing around just enough where they got on their heels a little.”
Brad Carpenter made the biggest difference from the field, nailing five three-pointers to lead the Blue Jays with 15 points.
“He’s lights out. He’s one of the better shooters I’ve seen in a long time,” Sodemann said of Carpenter. “I would not want to play him in a game of horse from the three-point line. He knows his role and that’s what he does. He did not get a lot of touches the first night, but they took Luke and Ronnie out of the game a little and Brad hit some big shots for us.”
Suggs added 10 points, going 4-5 from the free-throw line.
Luke Schroepfer pitched in with 10 points, hitting all three of his free-throw attempts.
Walde registered eight points and grabbed some crucial rebounds on both ends of the floor.
Hasenjaeger netted five points, hitting both of his attempts from the foul line.
Jacob Mulkey added four points. Patrick Menke scored two points. Austin Subke also played.
Suggs and Schroepfer represented WHS on the all-tournament team.
Rashad Lindsey, a 5-11 junior guard, paced the Stars with 20 points. He represented the Stars on the all-tournament team.
“(Lindsey) likes to get in the lane. He hit some runners. That’s where we were struggling in our zone, so we made some adjustments,” Sodemann said. “Then we got them standing around a little, which played into our hands. Walde and Schroepfer got some big rebounds in traffic.”
Chris Busbee added 11 points.
Dorian Holland scored seven points. Jordan Boone had six points.
“The game plan was pretty much the same between playing Cardinal Ritter and McCluer North. They’re very similar style teams. They want to get you to play fast,” Sodemann said. “Our game plan was to try to handle pressure, which we can improve a little bit. We just wanted to try to slow them down.”
The game was tied 16-16 after one quarter and Washington held a 26-25 halftime advantage.
The win over McCluer North gives the Blue Jays confidence moving forward.
“We just have to take it game by game,” Walde said. “I think we have the potential to do something special.”
Washington returns to action Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Parkway Central.