With the championship of the Washington Boys Basketball Tournament on the line, the host Blue Jays made a comeback to remember.
Top-seeded Washington (13-4) trailed second-seeded Westminster by 13 points late in the third quarter and by nine points heading into the fourth period, but dominated the final 10 minutes of the game in a 55-51 victory.
“Coach asked us after the third quarter if we believed we could do it,” said Washington senior guard Luke Schroepfer. “We all pulled together. We knew we could do it. We’ve been down by more. We’ve been in tougher situations. We pumped up our intensity. It was our defense that did it.”
Trailing 34-21 with 2:25 remaining in the third quarter, Washington went on an 18-2 run over the next 6 1/2 minutes of the game to grab a 39-36 lead with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Jays outscored Westminster 30-17 in the fourth quarter.
“Our intensity was up because we wanted to win. We didn’t want them to win,” said Washington senior forward Jared Walde.
“Going into the fourth quarter, I asked the guys if they believed, and they all said yes. So I knew we were on the same page,” said Washington Head Coach Chip Sodemann. “We started to play harder defensively. In the first half and the first part of the third quarter, our defensive intensity wasn’t where it needed to be. In the second half, especially the fourth quarter, we played harder defensively, which led to some chances on the offensive end.”
The Blue Jays also caught fire offensively in the fourth quarter.
“We got hot at the right time. You have to tip your hat to Brad (Carpenter), Luke (Schroepfer) and Ronnie (Suggs),” Sodemann said. “Shots weren’t falling early in the game, but they had the confidence to keep taking them and they all knocked down some big ones.”
With the score tied 44-44, a three-point play by Suggs with 1:51 left gave Washington the lead for good.
Luke Hasenjaeger, Jacob Mulkey and Schroepfer all hit free throws in the final 36 seconds to help seal the win.
“We talked in shoot-around that free throws probably would win the game,” Sodemann said. “I’m happy for Mulkey and Hazy for making those big free throws.”
Suggs led Washington in scoring with 18 points. Schroepfer added 14 points. Both players represented the Blue Jays on the all-tournament team.
Walde and Carpenter both finished the game with nine points. Mulkey scored four points. Hasenjaeger had one point.
Walde had another solid game rebounding the ball.
“That’s what I’m here for. We have Luke and Ronnie to do most of our scoring,” Walde said. “I just like to do the dirty work. I have fun doing it. I love these kinds of games.”
Shane Benes paced Westminster (8-6) with 14 points. Jack Dohr added 10 points. John Eric Steiner had nine points.
Dohr and Steiner represented the Wildcats on the all-tournament team.
“They’re a really good team. They’re very well coached,” Schroepfer said. “Jack Dohr, John Eric Steiner and Grant Koby, I played with them growing up. It’s fun playing against those guys. It’s important for us to win the tournament our senior year. It’s nice going out on a good note.”
With the score tied 10-10 after one quarter, Westminster went on a 24-15 run over the next two quarters, leading 25-18 at halftime and 34-25 after three periods.
The Blue Jays went on a 14-2 run in the first 4:15 of the fourth quarter to take the lead. Carpenter hit two three-pointers to highlight the run.
“It was a great atmosphere. I’m happy for our seniors, who have now won our tournament two times. It was a great learning experience for our younger guys,” Sodemann said. “Westminster has been in the finals three years in a row and won it last year. They weren’t going to give it to us. If we wanted the championship, we had to take it away from them.”
Washington defeated fifth-seeded Bayless Friday in the championship semifinals, 59-48.
The Bronchos played the final two games of the tournament without a key player in forward Edin Mehmedovic, who is ineligible for the second semester.
“Not having Mehmedovic hurt them. It allowed us to key more on (Patrick) Triplett,” Sodemann said. “We made some adjustments as the game went on and cut it loose in the fourth quarter.”
Washington led 41-30 midway through the third quarter, but an 8-0 run by Bayless to end the period made the score 41-38.
The Blue Jays took control in the fourth quarter, opening a 15-point lead with 2:48 left to play and winning by 11 points. Schroepfer paced the Blue Jays with 22 points. Suggs scored 20 points.
Walde and Mulkey both added seven points. Carpenter scored three points.
Triplett led Bayless with 20 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
The Blue Jays are looking forward to the final stretch of the season.
“We have high expectations. This wasn’t our best game. When we’re at our best, I think we can do something special,” Walde said following the championship game.
“Our major goal is to win a district title. We want to win a district title and see where we can go from there,” Schroepfer added. “Right now, that’s at the top of our list. If we play our best, I know we can get there.”