ST. CHARLES • The Duchesne boys basketball team knew what it was up against going into Saturday’s game against Father Tolton in the Public-Private Showcase.
But the Pioneers weren’t focusing on the fact the Trailblazers have built the reputation of being one of the top teams in the state. Or that the Columbia-based school also features one of the top players in the nation.
They just wanted to compete.
“I felt good about the effort,” Duchesne coach Wade Bouslog said after the Pioneers' 68-49 loss. “I liked the focus the kids had. I thought they executed the game plan throughout the night, and I think that was a step forward for us.”
Despite trailing by 22 points with 6 minutes, 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers never let up against the second-ranked team in Class 3 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.
Luke Lowenstein, Adam Moore and Ryan Briscoe each knocked down a 3-pointer in a one-minute span to spark a 17-4 run that cut Duchesne’s deficit to nine points with less than two minutes remaining.
“We just needed to keep fighting,” Moore said.
Tolton scored the final 12 points of the game, including an alley-oop dunk by Michael Porter, Jr., a five-star recruit who is currently ranked as the No. 3 junior in the nation by ESPN.
It was similar to the start of the game when Porter Jr., who finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds, had a one-handed dunk 17 seconds into the contest.
“We knew he was going to come out and get some big dunks,” Briscoe said. “We know what he can do, so we just tried to keep calm and keep him in check as much as possible.”
Briscoe finished with 19 points and Moore added 15 to lead the Pioneers (2-3), who were 19-of-49 from the field and 9-of-19 from 3-point range.
Mason Scholtzhauer had 11 points, while Jontay Porter, a sophomore who is verbally committed to the University of Washington, had eight points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
But it was Jontay Porter’s older brother, Michael, that was the biggest difference-maker in the game. The 6-foot-9 forward was 13-of-17 from the field, while the Trailblazers finished 27-of-50 as a team.
“Tonight is a night where he really shines,” Tolton coach Jeremy Osborn said. “He carried us offensively, and tonight we were struggling a little bit offensively. Credit to Duchesne. They made it tough on us.”
Tolton has done the same to its opponents. The Trailblazers claimed a 71-61 win on Dec. 5 over CBC, the No. 3 team in Class 5 by the MBCA and the No. 3 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-school rankings.
Duchesne hopes to benefit from that caliber of competition as the season progresses.
"It’s totally going to help us," Bouslog said. "We’re trying to play games where we are going to challenge our kids."
Tolton had an 11-9 lead over Duchesne after the first quarter and maintained a single-digit advantage throughout the second period - much to the credit of Michael Porter, Jr., who scored 15 of the Trailblazers' 20 points in the period as they entered the third with a 31-24 cushion.
Duchesne was limited to six points in the third and entered the final period trailing 44-30. Tolton used a 10-0 run to take a 22-point lead early in the fourth, but the Pioneers didn’t quit.
“We could have hung our heads when we got down 20,” Bouslog said. “But they kept coming and kept playing, and that’s what you’ve got to do in those situations. One of the things we talked to the kids about was, ‘Whatever happens, I just want to see us compete tonight.’”