In the weekend opener, Maplewood Richmond Heights (Mo.) took a 49-36 lead into the fourth quarter. Jefferson City battled back, but fell short 59-45.
Featured in the second game were annual southwest Mo. powerhouse Republic and Chicago Elgin Larkin (Ill.). At the half, Elgin Larkin held a 29-21 lead, which extended to a 20-point lead in the third quarter. Republic climbed to within 9 points just beyond the 2:00 mark, and fell short 72-64.
A 31-21 halftime lead for Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) – the No. 9 team in the nation – over Hazelwood Central turned into a defensive struggle in the following quarter. The teams combined for a total of 14 points, but it was Sunrise Christian that trampled through the final period to take home its first Route 66 Shootout victory, 55-41.
Waynesville vs. Chicago Ridgewood (Ill.)
Friday's final contest between Chicago Ridgewood and Waynesville turned into a barn-burner late. But the first half was all three-pointers for Ridgewood, which shot 9-of-16 from beyond the arc on its way to a slight 33-26 lead in the first half.
Waynesville coach Chris Pilz said the Ridgewood squad entered Friday's game shooting 29 percent from three-point range; Ridgewood finished shooting 11-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Thanks to clutch play in the third quarter, Waynesville's senior guard D.J. Hargrow nailed a free throw to cut Ridgewood's lead to four at 44-40 headed into the fourth quarter.
An early 8-2 run pushed Ridgewood back into the driver's seat, but Waynesville kept fighting. With less than a minute left Waynesville was forced to foul, sending several Ridgewood players to the line. Upon clutch misses, Waynesville squeaked closer with late free throws and field goals.
Because of a game clock malfunction, less than 10 seconds remained when Waynesville was down 58-55. A Ridgewood inbound pass ran out the clock and the out-of-state team held on to win 58-55.
Waynesville finished shooting 20-of-41 from the field but made only 50 percent of its 22 free throws, one reason why the squad fell short.
"We missed three 1-and-1 [attempts] in the first half," Pilz said. "We're going to have to make more [free throws]."
Another issue in the game: turnovers. According to Pilz, Waynesville averages 11 turnovers per contest but committed 21 in Friday's loss.
Chicago Elgin Larkin (Ill.) competed in its second game of the weekend against Hazelwood Central. Larkin nailed five three-pointers in the first quarter en route to a 23-15 halftime lead. Hazelwood Central rallied back by opening the third quarter with a 9-2 run to get to within a point. Both teams traded baskets until the buzzer ended third quarter play with a 34-34 tie. Hazelwood Central took its first lead of the contest to open the fourth quarter, but Elgin Larkin used its defense to to hold off the opponent 54-50.
Page 2 of 4 - Saturday's second contest was a display of dominance by Jefferson City, which defeated Chicago Ridgewood (Ill.) by a 34-point margin, 78-44.
Christian Brothers College Prep (CBC), the No. 1 Class 5 team in Mo., made its debut against Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) Saturday. Down as many as 10 points, CBC battled back to take a 34-29 lead into halftime. However, Sunrise Christian Academy opened the second half with an 18-6 surge to take a 47-40 lead, capitalized by a couple of emphatic dunks. CBC hung around and eventually tied the game at 49-all before the end of the third quarter. Sunrise Christian Academy outscored its opponent by 8 fourth quarter points and went on to win, 70-62.
Jackson (Mo.) and Strafford (Mo.) also made their Route 66 Shootout debuts Saturday. In a first half dominated by Strafford, Jackson was able to hang around, down 39-31 at halftime. In a physical battle, Jackson used its defense and towering big-men to take a 47-46 lead in the third quarter. From there, Strafford flailed, allowing Jackson to score 30 fourth quarter points compared to its own 15 point effort. Jackson prevailed 77-61.
Waynesville vs. McCluer North
The shootout's final match-up perhaps drew to a bittersweet conclusion.
Waynesville collided with the two-time defending Mo. state champions McCluer North, in what turned out to be the most exciting match-up of the weekend.
In dramatic fashion, Waynesville senior guard Ethan Howser nailed a buzzer-beating, game-tying three-pointer in the first quarter, which was knotted at 16-all. But the drama continued throughout the contest.
In the following period, Hargrow hit a pair of free throws to give Waynesville a one-point lead. Then, after a McCluer rimed out, Waynesville set up its triangle offense, which put the ball in senior forward Dylan Newcomb's hands to sink another buzzer-beater to give the home squad a 29-26 edge at the midway mark.
Waynesville carried increased its 3-point fourth quarter lead after a 12-8 run, which was capped off by a Morgan dunk. However, McCluer North drew Morgan's fifth foul with 3:49 left in the third quarter, and was able to capitalize by getting back to within 3 points at 45-42 at the end of the period.
The final chapter of Saturday's contest was highlighted with four ties and five lead changes, the first of which came on a McCluer North field goal to take a 48-47 lead.
On an ensuing possession, Hargrow once again came up big at the free throw line to tie the game at 49, and again at 53 with 1:06 remaining, before fouling out. Just seconds later, McCluer North hit a mid-range jumper to regain the lead. When Waynesville took possession, Howser committed an offensive foul with :38 to play, which gave the ball to McCluer North.
Page 3 of 4 - McCluer North failed to capitalize on the late-game possession and gave the ball back to Waynesville, which called a timeout with :10 remaning in regulation. Then, in an unlikely scenario, freshman guard Joe Johnson drove the lane and was fouled with :02.2 on the game clock. Johnson was clutch, and tied the game at 56 to force an overtime period.
"Those are clutch free throws," Pilz said. "There's certain guys that want the ball in their hands at the end of the game and certain guys that can make [shots]. If we had to have a guy right there at the time, I thought he could do it."
Both teams committed several fouls, which extended the score to 59-58 in favor of McCluer North.
To regain the lead at 59-58, Waynesville junior guard Michael Thompson drove the lane and sank a lay-in after a head fake.
That's when things fell apart for the Waynesville squad. McCluer North was fouled on a made bucket. When the referee's whistle blew, Howser was given a technical foul, which gave McCluer North two extra free throw attempts. The opponent hit on 1-of-2 of the technical free throws, and miss the and-1 attempt, which pushed the score to 63-60. Johnson then held the ball before driving the lane and sinking an up-and-under bucket to get to within a point with 19.1 seconds left in the extra period.
After the inbound pass, Waynesville committed a foul to put McCluer North back on the free throw line, which resulted in two missed attempts and gave Waynesville the final shot.
A few dribbles later, Johnson threw a three-point prayer, which fell short of the basket. Waynesville fell 63-62 to a very good state-ranked squad.
"If we get a last shot up, we're probably going to beat [McCluer]," Pilz said.
Four players scored in double figures for the Tigers, led by Howser and senior guard Donald Hargrow with 14 each; sophomore forward Juwan Morgan with 13 and Johnson with 10 while junior forward Javante Armstrong grabbed 10 rebounds. Waynesville is now 5-4.
"Our team is shaping up," Pilz said about the tough losses this weekend. "We're four baskets away from being 8-1 (overall). Unfortunately the ball hasn't bounced our way."
Pilz said the weekend's shootout produced some "tough games against tough teams that beat you up, and we got exactly that."
"If you're going to be a good teamin a tournament or in a playoff situation, you've got to get yourself in games that are back-to-back tough games," Pilz said. "We'd love to win them, but you still get a lot of benefit out of playing hard-nosed teams."
Looking back at the tournament, Pilz said his team learned from the experience and is "a better team" now because of it.
Page 4 of 4 - Stay logged into the Daily Guide to check out a Route 66 Shootout, Pulaski County USA photo gallery later in the week.