CHESTERFIELD – The boys basketball team earned the right to defend its 2011 district championship, Wednesday evening at , with a convincing 72-52 MSHSAA Class 5 District 4 semifinal win over Hazelwood West.
The Spartans, the No. 7 ranked team in the area and clear favorites to win their second straight district title, took control of Wednesday’s contest with a 15-4 run late in the second quarter that turned a close ballgame against the Wildcats into a 10-point halftime advantage for De Smet.
And despite Hazelwood West’s best efforts to cut into that edge, the Wildcats never could get close enough to really challenge the Spartans’ superiority.
“I was really proud,” De Smet head coach Kevin Poelker said. “We knew they’d play with a lot of intensity. We knew that they’d be after us, and that they’d play really hard.
“We got exactly what we expected. They gave us a great effort and forced us to respond, and I thought we did a good job of adjusting, and keeping us as much as possible in our gameplan.”
Four De Smet players scored in double figures against West, led by junior Nolan Berry, who had a game-high 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Teammate Eric Moeller added 16 points, to go along with Alec Bausch, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Jamie Hudson, who contributed 12 points.
“We got a nice balanced contribution from several guys,” Poelker said. “This district is very strong, and we know we’re going to have to play our very best if we’re going to win it.”
De Smet’s best on Wednesday came just after a Hazelwood West spurt at the beginning of the second quarter gave the Wildcats an 18-17 lead, when Hudson and Bausch combined to score 12 straight points that gave the Spartans the lead for good with just a few minutes to go before halftime.
Hudson knocked down two layups, a free throw, and a three-point play during the run, and Bausch added a pretty backdoor layup and a jumper that both times managed to beat the swarming Hazelwood West defense.
In the third quarter, De Smet built its lead to as many as 14 points on three different occasions, but couldn’t prevent a 10-2 spurt by the Wildcats that encompassed the end of the third and beginning of the fourth and cut the Spartan lead to just six points at 51-45.
West’s Derrian Johnson, who had a team-high 15 points on Wednesday, made a key three-pointer and a spectacular driving layup that helped sparked the Wildcat spurt.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, six points was as close as they would get, as De Smet answered with a 12-5 spurt of its own that pushed the lead back to 63-50 with just over two minutes left in the game.
From that point on, De Smet simply made its free throws and ran out the clock, as Hazelwood West was forced to take several difficult shots in hopes that one of them would spark a final closing rally.
None of them did, as the Spartans cruised to their 19th win of the season.
After the game, the emotionally disappointed Hazelwood West team remained in its locker room for nearly 30 minutes, and wasn’t available for comment, as head coach Cary Lewis Jr. talked with his club about its 2011-2012 season, and his hopes for a better year next year.
The Wildcats finished the year with a 13-15 record, after going 18-9 in 2010-2011, and ending last season with a loss to De Smet in the district championship game.
Next year, Hazelwood West will have to replace its eight graduating seniors, but most local hoops experts believe the Wildcats can be better thanks to a strong freshman and sophomore class coming up.
De Smet, which is now 19-8, will play in Friday’s district championship game against, which defeated archrival Parkway Central on Wednesday, to advance.
Tip-off for Friday’s Class 5 District 4 title game is set for 7 p.m., at Parkway Central High again, and will follow the girls district championship game, which will tip at 5:30 p.m.