ST. CHARLES • Wade Bouslog winked at the scorer's table.
The Duchesne boys basketball coach never lets his guard down. From the opening tip to the final whistle, Bouslog remains focused and intense on the game at hand. But with his Pioneers comfortably ahead in the last five seconds of regulation, Bouslog let his guard down.
Who can blame him?
No. 2 seed Duchesne beat No. 1 seed North Tech 57-48 to win the Class 3 District 6 title Saturday at Duchesne.
Duchesne (17-10) advanced to play Madison Prep in a sectional at 6 p.m. Wednesday at St. Charles West.
The No. 7 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings, North Tech ended its season at 19-7.
For Duchesne to get its hands on the district title this season was, in a way, unexpected. The Pioneers graduated their entire starting five and all but two of their regulars from last season. Only junior point guard Ryan Briscoe and junior forward Alex Moore saw action last season. The rest of the cast was fresh and had to find its way though the winter.
“This is huge for us,” Briscoe said. “Not many people thought we would win our district losing those five seniors and starters and only bringing back two guys that played. This shows that we can bring guys in and be a solid group.”
The two returners went from role players to impact players and lived up to their billing Saturday. Moore was particularly effective early in the game as he buried a couple of 3-pointers to push the Pioneers out to a comfortable 18-8 first-quarter lead. He finished with 16 points.
"These kids play their roles, buy in and do it," Bouslog said. "It's gratifying for me for those kids to do that and have success. This is big for our program to be able to do that after what we lost last year. It shows your foundation is really solid."
Briscoe ran the show with aplomb. His steady hand kept Duchesne in control of the game in spite of North Tech's best defensive efforts to accelerate the pace of play.
The Pioneers were patient, worked the ball in their halfcourt sets and took good shots. Briscoe wasn't shy about attacking the rim when given the chance, either. He finished with 18 points.
“We just wanted to take good shots and run off the clock,” Briscoe said. “We wanted to get curls in the lane to get layups and not take quick threes so they could get runouts. When we do that, we're pretty good and we can control the game.”
By converting on the offensive end, Duchesne took away transition opportunities for North Tech. The Golden Eagles were forced to play in the halfcourt, and it was at times a struggle. There was no consistent source of points in the paint or on the perimeter.
“The thing is they played off us a little bit,” North Tech coach Nate Griffin said. “They played pretty much man-to-man and they're pretty good at what they do. They played a good man-to-man defense.”
Duchesne led 24-19 at halftime and ran out to a 34-20 lead with 2 minutes and 7 seconds remaining in the third quarter. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Golden Eagles threw a full-court trapping defense at the Pioneers.
It worked for a possession or two as Duchesne turned the ball over. But from that point on the Pioneers broke it with ease and were able to get easy baskets or head to the free throw line.
“We feel like our schedule has prepared us for these types of games,” Bouslog said. “We played McCluer North, we played Jennings, we played Tolton Catholic. We've played in big games against all types of teams. I think that prepared us for this. We didn't come out shellshocked. They're athletic and they bring it in waves. If you don't see it, you're not ready for it.”
The Pioneers were ready for it and never trailed as they took home the district championship. The next challenge will be even stiffer as they draw a Madison Prep team that knocked off defending Class 3 champion Cardinal Ritter.
“That's life in Class 3, I guess,” Bouslog said with a grin.
North Tech junior forward Tyree White and senior guard Michael Henderson-Burt each scored 13 points.