Brad Beal did it once. So did Ben McLemore. Jayson Tatum never did it. Neither did David Lee or BJ Young. Cameron Biedscheid came close. Sanijay Watts came closer.
Torrence Watson has done it twice in the last two months.
A senior shooting guard for the Whitfield boys basketball team, Watson scored a career-high 58 points in a 74-66 win over De Smet on Jan. 30. It's the second most points scored in an area game since at least the 1999-00 season. Miller Career Academy's Jerome Jones scored 65 against Gateway STEM on Jan. 9, 2009.
Watson's 58-point eruption was the second time he'd scored 50 or more points. He went for 50 exactly in a 73-59 win over Lift For Life on Dec. 11.
The 6-foot-5 Watson followed his 58-point game with a 40-point outburst in a 58-57 win over Pinckneyville on Friday at the O'Fallon Shootout.
That's 98 points over his last two games. It's hard to believe the ball hasn't burst into flames when Watson touches it. The area's leading scorer with a 31.8 points per game average, he's just that hot.
“It feels great. I want to go out with a bang my senior year,” said Watson, who has signed to play at Mizzou. “I have to thank my teammates for getting me the ball.”
The No. 6 small school in the STLhighschoolsports.com rankings, Whitfield (16-6) will honor Watson and its other seniors when it hosts Westminster (11-9) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Watson, who has long since established himself as Whitfield's all-time leading scorer, has already been honored for surpassing 2,000 career points. With his recent outburst he's blown past 2,500. If he keeps that up and the Warriors make a third consecutive trip to the state semifinals, he very well could surpass 3,000 points.
Not that it matters a lick to Watson.
Yes, he wants to be back at state but not to chase points. He's chasing that elusive ring.
The Class 3 runners up last season and the fourth-place finisher the year before that, Whitfield's sole focus is the title chase. In an era where winning can often take a back seat to personal glory, the Warriors have staved off the petty jealousy that can derail a team when one player shines brighter than the rest.
“We have enough leadership on this team that all we care about is making a postseason run,” Whitfield coach Mike Potsou said. “They have that experience in the playoffs and understand how close they've come.”
Watson has put up the points but he doesn't defend by himself. He doesn't bring the ball up the floor by himself. He wouldn't get the shot attempts he gets without the other Warriors. Last week against De Smet, Watson's plan of attack wasn't complicated. He broke his defender down off the dribble and if a help defender came he'd move the ball. If there was no help he was going to the basket.
“They allowed me to get to the basket,” Watson said. “My teammates shot the ball well. It was pick your poison.”
Potsou gives a lot of credit to the other Warriors for not getting caught watching Watson make magic. It would be easy to lose focus when something so rare is happening. But they haven't. Potsou said they've been on point and they've been unselfish.
“We have guys that can knock down shots and they have to be shot ready,” Potsou said. “Our guys are smart enough and unselfish enough to keep feeding the hot hand.”
Watson might be the human torch right now, but he's not throwing up an outrageous amount of shots. During his 58 point night Potsou marveled at Watson's efficiency. Potsou said Watson hit 16 of his 19 two-point attempts, three of his six 3-point attempts and was 17 of 20 at the free-throw line. Watson hit 76 percent of his total field goals. He was nearly as good against Pinckneyville as he made 16 of his 27 field goals to hit 60 percent of his shot attempts and that includes a Hail Mary 3-pointer to beat the buzzer.
Watson's demeanor helps his cause, too. He carries himself with a pleasant, albeit competitive nature. He has a million dollar smile and is never shy about flashing it. He's also never shy about spreading the love every chance he gets.
“I always thank my teammates,” Watson said.
Watson hasn't had time to reflect on the historic nature of his season. The 50-point barrier is rarely crossed in the area. Of Chaminade's recent NBA standouts only Beal managed to break it when he went for 51 in an overtime win against CBC at the Pattonville Tournament as a sophomore in 2008. Tatum maxed out at 46 points against Huntington Prep in 2016. David Lee never broke 40.
As a junior at the now shuttered Eskridge High in Wellston, Ben McLemore scored 50 against Affton in 2010. Riverview Gardens' electric point guard Tyrin Williams went off for 50 against Northwest Academy in 2012. Jennings standout Sanijay Watts had 49 the first game of his senior year in 2006.
Watson is the only area player to break the barrier twice since at least 1999 and there are still plenty of games to be played.
Especially if Watson achieves the only goal he truly cares about.
“I want to get a state championship,” Watson said. “If I have to score 50 every game to do it, I will.”
ALTON MARQUETTE MARCHES ON
While Whitfield's Torrence Watson went off last week, Alton Marquette's Sammy Green did everything but score in the Explorers' 50-48 win at McCluer North on Friday.
A senior point guard, Green averages 10 points per game but was held scoreless for the first time in his career at Marquette.
“He had an excellent game taking care of the ball against (McCluer North's) pressure,” Marquette coach Steve Medford said.
Instead of forcing his shot, Green kept finding Isaiah Ervin who finished with 31 points.
The No. 2 small school, Marquette (24-0) felt it got exactly what it wanted out of playing at McCluer North (10-11). The Stars are fast, athletic and rangy.
Because of the Illinois High School Association's “success” multiplier for private schools, Marquette moved from Class 2A into 3A this season. There is a chance it could see East St. Louis or Cahokia at some point in the playoffs and tussling with the Stars was a good way to prepare for the challenges those teams present.
“It was a great win for us,” Medford said.
A win in which the Explorers didn't get a point from their point guard and only used one substitute. Medford said this is the time of year where he prefers shorter, intense practices.
“You want to be really sharp this time of year,” he said.
The Explorers will have to be sharp Tuesday night when they travel to Highland (17-7). The Bulldogs have won eight of their last 10 and will be itching to hand Marquette its first loss.
“It's a great test for us to see where we're at,” Medford said. “We expect it to be a great game.”
The chances Green goes scoreless again this season? Slim. Medford believes his point guard will make the plays that need to be made. Whether it's passing, defending or scoring, he has complete faith in Green.
“When it's winning time he'll make plays for us,” Medford said. “When we need him to make more shots, he will.”
VASHON HOLDS ITS OWN ON NATIONAL STAGE
There is no faster way for a coach to get eye rolls than to tell a team games will come down to one play.
After Saturday, Tony Irons doesn't expect any more eye rolls from his Vashon Wolverines.
Junior guard Cyrus Alexander grabbed a rebound and dropped in a floater as time expired to lift Vashon to a 66-65 win over Our Savior New American School in the consolation championship of the St. James Invitational Tournament in Hagerstown, Maryland.
The No. 1 small school, Vashon (15-4) dropped its tournament opener to nationally ranked St. Benedict's Prep, 70-61.
“We were up 10 at one point. It was a battle,” Irons said. “I thought we played well and had a chance to win it.”
Not only did Vashon have to tussle with an elite opponent, it had to wrestle with a different wrinkle – a shot clock.
Maryland is one of eight states that requires a shot clock in high school basketball. The others are California, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Washington.
The Wolverines couldn't burn the game clock and nurse their lead with the shot clock. Still, Irons said he enjoyed his experience with the added degree of difficulty. He thinks it could be a real benefit to Missouri basketball players.
“It makes you more efficient. Every time you come down you have to execute,” Irons said. “It makes (the players) have to pay attention to detail. You have to get into your stuff quickly.”
Vashon adjusted to the shot clock and proved it could hang in the tough tournament field. It did so in part because junior guard Mario McKinney Jr. continued his growth into a leadership role. Named to the all-tournament team, some of McKinney's best contributions did not show up in the stat sheet.
“His talent is unquestionable,” Irons said. “On this trip he talked more, he made his teammates better and he competed. He showed how versatile he is.”
Vashon went 2-2 in its last four games. Before it went to Maryland, it traveled to Chicago to take on defending Illinois Class 2A champion Orr Academy. Orr, the only team to beat Hazelwood Central this season, grabbed a 75-65 victory. Irons said pulling out the buzzer-beater victory to break even was a huge positive for his team as it returns to the area and prepares for the stretch run of the season.
“It makes a huge difference. If we'd gone 1-3 we'd have to do more work on their minds,” Irons said. “Coming back 2-2 you can build on some things and hopefully it'll catapult us forward.”
Irons likened the win over Our Savior New American School to his team's come-from-behind win over CBC two seasons ago. In that game, the Wolverines had to rally from a double-digit deficit and grabbed victory in the final seconds of regulation. Vashon didn't lose again on its way to the first of back-to-back state championships.
“We were down 10 at one point, we couldn't make a shot and at no point did our kids quit,” Irons said. “They were into it, they were engaged.”
And they were rewarded with a heart-stopping victory.
Now Vashon's challenge becomes maintaining the level of focus and effort that helped it earn that tough victory. Irons will know Tuesday if his team has turned the corner or not. Vashon plays Roosevelt (5-13) at Southwest High.
It would be easy for the Wolverines to go through the motions against the Roughriders. But to find their way through a rugged playoff path just to reach the state semifinals, the Wolverines can't let their opponent dictate how they go about their business.
“It's about our mentality. We took these trips to find out where we are as a team,” Irons said. “It's not about who we play it's about how we play. That'll show how mature we are.”
BRADFORD TRANSFERS OUT OF CBC
Davion Bradford has transferred out of CBC and enrolled at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix. Hillcrest announced the transfer on its Twitter page on Sunday.
The 6-foot-10 and 220-pound Bradford averaged five points and three rebounds per game for the Cadets.
CBC coach Justin Tatum said he was caught off guard by Bradford's transfer.
“It's unfortunate because we enjoyed Davion the person,” Tatum said. “We wish him the best.”
CBC (7-11 overall, 3-3 Metro Catholic Conference) is trying to find some consistency. The Cadets have lost six of their last eight. That includes losses at the hands of Hazelwood Central, Chaminade, Confluence and Chicago Farragut. There was also a 48-46 overtime loss to St. Louis U. High. That means CBC was swept by SLUH in back-to-back seasons after losing both MCC meetings just once, in 2001-02, since the 1999-00 season.
“I want to see us have a competitive attitude. We're working together more and limiting our turnovers,” Tatum said. “We'll see how it goes this week.”
This week will challenge CBC as it goes on the road to Alton on Tuesday then hosts Miller Career on Thursday and Chaminade on Friday.
SOUTHWESTERN CONFERENCE MADNESS
The only guarantee in the Southwestern Conference is nothing is easy.
The No. 3 large school, Belleville West (20-2 overall, 9-0 league) sits atop the conference and appears headed toward its first league championship since 2004.
Everyone else is crap shoot.
In the past week, East St. Louis (10-9, 5-5) beat Edwardsville (12-8, 5-4) by 11, 47-36. Granite City (8-14, 3-6) nipped Alton (12-8, 7-3) by one, 54-53.
O'Fallon (9-13, 4-5) has wins over Collinsville (15-9, 3-6) and East St. Louis. Belleville East is 10-12, but just 1-8 against league opponents.
This week will provide more chances at something wild. On Friday, Belleville West travels to East St. Louis and Collinsville hosts Alton. Both games are scheduled to tip off around 7:30 p.m.