ROLLA – A couple more jump shots finding the mark would have allowed the Waynesville High School boys' basketball team to overlook its frigid start during Thursday's Missouri Class 5 District 10 Tournament championship game.
However, the Tigers simply fell a couple of baskets short.
The top-seeded Washington Blue Jays bolted to a big early lead and then held off the third-seeded Tigers' second-half comeback bid for a 39-36 victory in the District 10 title game Thursday at the Rolla High gym.
It's the second straight year the Waynesville Tigers saw a second-half rally fall just short in the district championship game.
The Tigers end the season with a 14-13 mark.
Washington, now 19-9, move on to Class 5 Sectional action at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6 at Camdenton High School. The Blue Jays will play the District 9 champion.
In the boys' District 9 Tournament semifinals on Friday, Columbia Hickman was to play Camdenton while Columbia Rock Bridge was to play Jefferson City. The District 9 championship game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Hickman High School.
The start of Thursday's game couldn't have got much worse for the Tigers.
After the two teams split the first two field goals, Washington reeled off 13 unanswered points as the Tigers would not score again in the first period.
A three-point field goal off the left baseline by 6-3 senior forward Luke Schroepfer at the 1:04 mark gave the Jays a 15-2 edge entering the second period.
Washington would add a pair of three-pointers to open the second-quarter scoring. And Schroepfer's trey at the 4:32 mark made it a 19-point game, 21-2.
The lid finally came off the basket for Waynesville, as the Tigers outscored the Jays 10-3 the rest of the half to get back into contention. After the Tigers had cut it to nine points, Washington's 6-5 junior forward Ronnie Suggs was fouled on a three-point attempt and nailed all three free throws to take a 24-12 halftime edge.
"We've got to be more patient, more disciplined," said Waynesville head coach Chris Pilz. "We've got some young guys who have got to learn a little more. We just couldn't dig ourselves out of that big hole. We got it down to one with the ball a couple of times but couldn't (take the lead)."
The Tigers went on a 11-2 run to start the second half. And senior guard Ethan Howser's three-pointer off the top of the key at the 3:48 mark cut the Tiger deficit to three, 26-23.
Washington was able to keep that three-point edge entering the fourth quarter.
After Washington junior forward Jacob Mulkey began with a three-pointer off the left baseline, Waynesville senior guard D.J. Hargrow answered with a trey off the right baseline.
Page 2 of 2 - Waynesville 6-7 sophomore forward Juwan Morgan made a steal and 6-8 junior forward Kellieon Williams tipped in a missed shot at the 4:11 mark to trim the Jay lead to one, 33-32.
Twice Waynesville had the ball with a chance to take the lead but couldn't get a shot to fall.
Waynesville made two critical turnovers, with Suggs making a steal on the Tiger baseline with 1:56 remaining. And at the 1:10 mark the Tigers turned it over again.
With :31 left Washington's junior guard Brad Carpenter was intentionally fouled and hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 37-34. On the Jays' ensuing inbound play Washington 6-4 senior forward Jared Walde was fouled. He hit both ends of the one-and-one attempt with :29 remaining to make it 39-34.
Morgan tipped in a miss with :04 left, but the clock then ran out on the Tigers' season.
"Our guys make a great effort," Pilz said. "Going in we thought we needed this game in the 50s or 60s. Thirty-six points wasn't going to do it."
Williams and Morgan each scored nine points for Waynesville.
Schroepfer tallied 16 points for Washington, now 19-9.
With players like Morgan, Williams, 5-9 freshman guard Joe Johnson returning and 6-5 junior forward Javante Armstrong coming back from injury, the Tigers like next season's prospects.
"We feel good about the future of Waynesville basketball," Pilz said. "We have good kids who work hard. They'll learn from this."
Waynesville (14-13): Hargrow 2-1-6, Howser 2-0-6, Williams 4-0-9, Johnson 2-1-6, Morgan 4-0-9, Totals 14-2-36.
Washington (19-9): Carpenter 1-1-4, Menke 1-0-2, Mulkey 2-0-5, Schroepfer 5-3-16, Suggs 2-6-10, Walde 0-2-2, Totals 11-12-39.