Playing for the second time in just over three days, the Union basketball Wildcats recorded their second win over the Washington Blue Jays Tuesday, 61-47.
“I thought both teams played hard,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “It was a physical game. When you play people with towns right next to each other, it’s supposed to be that way. There’s supposed to be some fire. I thought both teams competed and it was a fun game. Obviously, when you win, you have more fun.”
Washington Head Coach Grant Young felt his team did a solid job as it continues to learn.
“We’ve got a young group and we’ve just got to learn how to finish,” Young said. “I’m very proud of what our kids are doing.”
Union improved to 3-1 on the season with the win while the Blue Jays dropped to 1-3.
The first meeting during the 66th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament ended with Union winning 66-62.
However, there were several changes before Tuesday’s rematch in Union.
The biggest was to Washington’s lineup. Senior Alec Brinkmann, who scored 20 points Saturday, was out due to illness. The Blue Jays were able to picking up scoring from other players to help make up.
“I know we’re losing right now,” Young said. “We’re the underdog. We’re supposed to be the underdog right now and we’re playing Union, which has seven returning players from last year. We were playing without Alec Brinkmann, who has averaged 18 points a game for us. Our kids really stepped up”
“They were at a disadvantage tonight playing without Brinkmann, so that was a big deal,” Simmons said.
Union made a point to incorporate senior forward Kale Crawford more into the offensive play and it paid off with 13 points, including seven in the final quarter as the Wildcats sealed the victory.
Union raced out to a 13-4 lead to start the game, but the Blue Jays scored seven unanswered points to pull back to 13-11 after eight minutes.
“The big thing was that they got us in transition,” Simmons said. “We were going up and rebounding one-handed and lots of balls were being tipped around.”
Washington netted the first eight points of the second quarter to go ahead, 19-13. Sophomore Brigham Broadbent knocked down a pair of free throws and junior Jeremiah Broadbent then hit a pair of three-point shots.
The Blue Jays were able to hold onto that six-point edge at the half to lead 27-21 at the intermission.
The Wildcats went on a 10-1 run to start the second half and retake the lead. Senior Wil Strubberg hit a shot with 6:19 to play to put Union back on top, 29-28. That came after senior Jacob Towell and Strubberg hit three-point baskets.
“It was good to see our kids overcome that,” Simmons said. “Washington had a 19-3 run in the middle of the first half and we responded coming out in the second half. That was a big deal for us starting the second half that way.”
Union went on another 7-2 run midway through the third quarter to consolidate its lead. Towell knocked down a three at the close of the quarter and Union led 42-36 going into the final eight minutes.
With Union holding a 48-45 lead, Crawford hit a three-point basket and a two-point shot to extend the lead and give his team the breathing room it needed to finish out the win.
“Kale is a very smart kid,” Simmons said. “He plays hard and I thought tonight he really battled. I thought Kaleb and Wil played really big and really strong all night long.”
Young felt the late surge was the only time the game was out of reach.
“We were in the game throughout until the very end when they stepped up and hit some shots,” Young said. “We broke down back side defensively in our zone and with our man-to-man. I’m so ecstatic for our kids with where we’re at right now. The wins aren’t coming right now, but what we’re doing on the floor makes the fans see that we’re having some fun out there with what the kids are doing and what they’re capable of doing. As long as we do that, we’ll be in every game because of our defensive ability. We’ve got to work on a few things, like rebounding.”
Union knocked down 10 three-point baskets in the game with six different players hitting from outside the stripe. The Wildcats also went 13-16 from the free-throw line.
Towelll and senior Trevor Kelly each scored 14 points to lead Union. Towell hit three three-point baskets and Kelly had two.
Crawford was next with 13 points, including one three-point basket.
Strubberg hit a pair of three-point shots on the way to his five points.
Junior Peyton Burke was next with five points, including a three-point shot. Junior Chase Mehler recorded one three-point basket for his scoring.
“It was a team effort tonight and I was really proud of them,” Simmons said.
Sophomore Ryan Hoerstkamp led the Blue Jays with 18 points.
“We pushed Ryan and told him he had to be that person to step up and he did,” Young said. “Jerry (Jeremiah Broadbent) hit some big shots in the first half and then we got a little quiet until the fourth quarter.”
Jeremiah Broadbent was next with nine points, all on three-point baskets. He hit three of the four Washington threes in the game.
Sophomore Jason Sides was next with five points.
Brigham Broadbent and senior Colton Souders scored four points apiece.
Senior Rett Corley added three points. Sophomores Todd Bieg and Zach Coulter added two points apiece.
Washington hit four three-point baskets and went 9-10 from the free-throw line.
“We’ve just got to put four quarters together,” Young said. “With us being a young group and learning, it will come. This experience will help down the road for all of the players, sophomores through seniors.”
Union returns to action Tuesday, hosting Cuba. The varsity game is expected to tip off around 7 p.m.
“It will be good to get some rest,” Simmons said. “We’ve played four games in eight days and we’re not very deep to begin with. Getting a couple of days off will do us good.”
The Blue Jays have their home opener the same night, hosting Wentzville Liberty. The varsity game is expected to start around 7 p.m.
“We’ve got a tough stretch with Wentzville Liberty, Sullivan, Ft. Zumwalt North and University City before Christmas break,” Young said. “We don’t have any cupcakes coming up. It’s a tough schedule and that will prepare us for March when we want to be playing our best. It’s a long grind, a marathon, but I’m happy with where our kids are at right now.”