TOWN AND COUNTRY • The De Smet basketball team was ready for its rematch with Hazelwood Central.
The Hawks defeated the Spartans by eight in the semifinals of the Meramec Holiday Festival Basketball Tournament back on Dec. 29. But De Smet earned some revenge on Friday night with a convincing 71-53 victory in the championship game of the Ameritime Classic at Missouri Baptist University.
“We really challenged them in the last couple weeks to step up their play,” De Smet coach Kevin Poelker said. “We’ve been playing really hard and with heart, but we played together. I thought we played like a real team, and that’s what we’ve been progressing towards. It was a great win for us.”
The second-seeded Spartans (13-5, No. 7 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings) have now won six of their last eight games. The top-seeded Hawks (14-4, No. 4 large school) had won 11 consecutive games.
De Smet was led, as usual, by its core group of seniors. Point guard Jimmy Barton scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half, while forward Nolan Berry scored 14 of his 19 points in the final two quarters. Forwards Alec Bausch and John Barron added eight points apiece.
“We were kind of in a slump,” Barton said. “We lost to Chaminade. We got beat by 10, 15. We played Lafayette and we played OK — they are a good team — but we were kind of in a slump. ... Us rebounding really set the tempo the whole night tonight. We really needed that for the rest of the season, especially the last month of the season. We need to be peaking by February and March, so it’s good for us.”
De Smet led 20-14 after one quarter and 30-21 at halftime. The Spartans used an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter to take an 18-point lead with 3 minutes 24 seconds left in the quarter and led 45-32 after three quarters.
Hazelwood Central, which got 14 points from senior forward Marcus Hinton and 10 from junior guard Demarco Buchanan, was able to cut the deficit to seven points, at 53-46, with 3 minutes 50 seconds left but could not get any closer.
Berry answered with a three-point play to push the advantage back to 10, and then the Spartans converted nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
“It’s always fun playing Hazelwood Central,” Barton said. “Ever since I’ve been a freshman, that’s always been a fun game to play. They are a good team. They are a good matchup against us. It’s a good win.”