St. Vincent got more than it bargained for in its Class 2, District 3 tournament matchup. Six seed Puxico jumped out to an early lead and stuck around for much of the game before three seed St. Vincent pulled away in the second half for a 62-47 victory on Tuesday at St. Vincent High School.
“Puxico came out and made shots and had a good game plan,” St. Vincent boys basketball coach Bruce Valleroy said. “It took us a while to wake up. During the district tournament you can’t have any lackadaisical moments because teams are going to bite you if you don’t come ready to play.”
Evan DeWilde led St. Vincent with 17 points, while John Wibbenmeyer added 16. Phillip Ernst chipped in 13 points to round out the players in double figures.
For Puxico, Dalton Andrews led all scorers with 19 and Brayton Budges chipped in 10 points.
Puxico certainly took a chunk out of St. Vincent early and struck the first blow as they scored points on four of their first five possessions to take an early 11-2 run. A lay-up by Shawn Koishor was the only points St. Vincent scored in the first four minutes.
“You have to give Puxico credit because they came in as the number six seed and had nothing to lose and played like it,” Valleroy said. “We didn’t play our typical defense to start the game, but once we started to make shots, we got our legs under us.”
Probably the biggest shot of the game came from Grant Abernathy, who was moved up from the junior varsity squad in the final four games of the regular season stepped into the first quarter as a substitute and drilled a three-pointer on his first shot to bring St. Vincent within 11-9 margin with 2:10 remaining in the period.
“That’s his job,” Valleroy said of Abernathy’s shot,” He has to come in and shoot the ball from the outside when given the opportunity. He is one of our best outside shooters and I hope he can help us in the games to come.”
From that moment on St. Vincent took control of the contest, thanks to its ability to shoot from the outside. Phillip Ernst converted a steal by John Wibbenmeyer into a layup to tie the game at 11 points apiece and DeWilde hit back-to-back threes to give St. Vincent at 17-14 lead at the end of the quarter. That hot shooting carried into the second quarter as DeWilde hit four triples in the first half and the Indians scraped into six total in the first 16 minutes and seven for the game.
Puxico matched St. Vincent and also made seven three-pointers.
“We are going to need that type of shooting as we go on,” Valleroy said. “We struggle from the outside this year, but we are going to need to do more of that this week if we want to move on.”
St. Vincent led by three after the first quarter and just 31-23 at the half as Puxico continued to make tough shots and just hang around in the contest without shooting a free throw the entire night. St. Vincent struggled from the line going just 5 for 15.
St. Vincent was able to open the second half on a run as Ernst scored seven of the first nine points in the quarter to open up a 40-37 lead as the overall length of the Indians caused Puxico to turn the ball over seven times in the second half and 12 for the game.
But with each Ernst basket Puxico had an answer. Dalton Andrews made a layup and Cole Barnfield swished a three-pointer to keep Puxico within striking distance at 44-34 with one minute to go in the third quarter.
Wibbenmeyer was able to give St. Vincent some momentum heading into the final frame as he drove the baseline for a layup with two seconds before the buzzer and a 48-36 lead.
St. Vincent put the game away as they grew that advantage to as many as 20 points awhen back-to-back putbacks by Brian Besand with three minutes left. Besand scored all eight of his points in the second half.
The Indians will move on to play Advance today at 6:30 p.m. in the tournament semifinal contest. St. Vincent won last year’s matchup 67-66 in overtime.
“I hope we have learned a lesson here tonight and come ready to play from the start,” Valleroy said. “A win is a win at this stage of the season and we are happy to keep playing.”