Boys Varsity Basketball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- Mar 1, 2019
- STARS: 75
WEBSTER GROVES HIGH SCHOOL: 55
McCluer North ends Webster Groves' reign as state champ
WEBSTER GROVES • Aaron Daniels held the district championship trophy in his hands Friday.
He's lucky the wooden plaque didn't burst into flames.
A senior guard for the McCluer North boys basketball team, Daniels was one of four players who scored in double figures as the Stars rolled to a 75-55 win over two-time defending state champion Webster Groves in the Class 5 District 5 title game at Roberts Gym on the campus of Webster Groves High.
It was not the storybook ending the Statesmen faithful came to see.
Webster Groves (22-4) made a habit this season of putting itself in a hole and then digging its way out.
The Stars buried the Statesmen and never stopped pouring it on.
Daniels buried four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Senior guard Steven Lee canned a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points. Senior point guard Mekai Ray scored 10 points and handed out four assists.
With its outside shots falling, McCluer North stretched Webster Groves' defense out and went to work in the paint.
“Hitting them early opened it up for us driving to the basket,” McCluer North coach Trevor Laney said. “Once we get a lead with our speed, we can spread people out and feel pretty comfortable.”
The long-range shooting allowed senior forward A'Tavian Butler to do what he does best — attack. The 6-foot-3 Butler scored 27 points, hauled in 11 rebounds and had three assists. When Butler is in beast mode the Stars are tough to stop.
“Tay has been our engine all year,” Laney said. “When Tay is the middle attacking there aren't a lot of people that are going stop him.”
Webster Groves certainly couldn't. The Stars took the lead for good when Ray buried his only 3-pointer of the game for a 23-21 lead with 1 minute and 24 seconds to play in the first quarter. The Stars led 26-21 to start the second quarter and extended the lead to 37-29 at the half.
Whatever hope Webster Groves had of turning the tide in the second half withered when McCluer North scored the first eight points of the third quarter.
“That's not really Webster basketball, matching people shot for shot,” Blossom said. “Give them credit, we didn't get any stops.”
McCluer North's success wasn't solely on the offensive end. The Stars defense was sensational as it frustrated Webster Groves senior guard Joe Jones. When the Statesmen were at their best, Jones was orchestrating the attack. He never got into a rhythm and finished with a hard-earned 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
“Mekai Ray was big staying in front of him,” Laney said.
Senior guard Amorey Womack had 15 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Ray Adams scored 13 points and senior forward Malachy Simpson had 10 points and seven rebounds.
McCluer North knew it would have to be on point if it was to survive the two-time defending champ on its home court. The Stars have one of the most impressive resumes in the state with wins over Rock Bridge and Francis Howell but had their down moments, too. They were beaten handily by De Smet, Trinity and lost at the buzzer to Hazelwood Central.
“Earlier in the season we weren't focused for real,” Daniels said. “Now it's win or go home and we're not ready to go home. We had to step up to the plate.”
Laney took a lot of pride in how his team enjoyed the district championship but didn't go wild. The Stars were rather subdued for a team that hasn't been this far in six years. That, he said, is because the players have bigger trophies on their brain.
“We don't want it to end here,” Laney said. “We don't want it to end with a district title. I think this team, they want something more.”
Blossom got more than he ever expected out of the Statesmen. He has said time and again how impressed he was with how the Statesmen, time and again, lived up to the program's credo, “toughest team wins.”
“I'm glad I got to coach my last game here. I'm glad I got to coach this group of seniors,” Blossom said. “I didn't think we'd have a team that would beat CBC, Cardinal Ritter, De Smet, Chaminade."
Blossom had toyed with the idea of stepping away last year after a second consecutive championship and the third in his tenure. But last season Webster Groves played a national schedule. It traveled more than Blossom ever had. He didn't get to enjoy the familiar places and faces that made his time at Webster so special.
He wanted to compete at the Coaches vs. Cancer Holiday Tournament at St. Louis Community College-Meramec. There were some local gyms he wanted to coach in, like Hancock's Tiger Dome. He wanted one more year with a typical high school basketball team. The players gave him everything they had and more.
"I'm glad I came back, I'm glad I went out with them," Blossom said. "They practiced hard, they acted right, they represented the school and community well. It's been a fun 20 years.”