Boys Varsity Basketball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- Mar 6, 2019
- STARS: 61
HAZELWOOD CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL: 55
McCluer North holds on to knock out Hazelwood Central in Class 5 sectional
The McCluer North boys basketball team's coach, Laney laid into his team in the locker room. He was mad the Stars missed their defensive assignments. That they didn't crash the glass in the end. That they couldn't convert at the free-throw line Wednesday.
“If a team fouls you and you go to the line and miss two free throws, it's as good as a turnover,” Laney said.
Judging by the postgame talk, one would assume McCluer North was packing up for a long offseason.
McCluer North led nearly all the way as it knocked off arch-rival Hazelwood Central 61-57 in a Class 5 sectional at St. Charles West High.
The No. 9 large school in the STLhighschoolsports.com rankings, McCluer North (26-3) advanced to play No. 3 large school Francis Howell (27-2) in a quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lindenwood University. Howell knocked off Battle 65-46 in a sectional at Maryville University.
It's the first quarterfinal appearance for McCluer North since 2013. It will be the first quarterfinal for Howell and it's a rematch Howell has been waiting on. Howell's two losses this season came to Trinity and McCluer North. The Stars bested the Vikings 70-62 for the Troy Invitational championship on Nov. 30.
“They're a very, very good team,” Laney said. “We have to be locked in, focused, hit shots and play defense.”
McCluer North has to prepare the way it prepared for Central. The Hawks eked out a 59-57 win over the Stars on Jan. 15. It was one of the biggest victories of the season for Central (16-13) and brought a laser-like focus to McCluer North when it saw it had another crack at its rival.
“We were very hungry for this game. We wanted to get revenge,” senior forward A'Tavian Butler said. “We came with a mindset to come out and play with intensity and that's what we did.”
Butler was his typically standout self as he finished with 19 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal. Senior forward Patrick Evans Jr. was strong, too, as he finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals.
The Stars were in complete control. Senior point guard Mekai Ray did a little bit of everything as he scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out four assists and had two steals.
McCluer North led 15-9 after the first quarter and 26-20 at halftime. The lead ballooned to 10 points multiple times in the second quarter but the Hawks always managed to real in the Stars. It would be a theme throughout the night.
“Even though we were down 10, I never felt like we were out of the game,” Hazelwood Central coach Brandon Gilmore said. “I knew we'd get back in the game.”
The Hawks hung around in the first half despite getting just one field goal from senior standout guard Isaiah Ervin. A dynamic scorer and slick ball handler, Ervin got a steady diet of McCluer North senior guard Steven Lee and plenty of help defense. The Stars' defensive objective was to limit Ervin as much as possible.
“We wanted to make sure we were locking down and sitting down on him,” Ray said. “We felt if we locked down the other players would have to beat us and we felt they weren't able to do that.”
Eight Hawks scored a field goal and junior guard David Roberts led the way with 15 points. He and freshman point guard Tevin Gowins kept Central in the game. Gowins had eight points and hit a pair of 3-pointers. Ervin, who torched the Stars for 28 point in January, finished with nine. It was just the fourth time this season he's been held under 12.
“It took us out of our rhythm a little bit,” Gilmore said.
The Stars appeared destined for the quarterfinal when they went ahead 49-39 after senior guard Aaron Daniels buried a corner 3-pointer with 3 minutes and 50 seconds to play. McCluer North went up 59-48 when Butler scored a breakaway layup with 40 seconds.
Then the Stars became allergic to the free throw line. McCluer North made just two of its six free throw attempts in the final 35 seconds. The Hawks got 3-pointers from junior guard Christian Banks and sophomore guard Aahmod Scarbrough that trimmed the lead to 60-55 with about 10 seconds to play.
Daniels hit one of two at the line and the Hawks got a dunk from Roberts just before the final horn.
It was a win but not one Laney felt great about in the postgame talk.
“We were locked in and I thought we played pretty good basketball up until (the last three minutes),” Laney said. “In the last three minutes we missed a lot of free throws, a few defensive assignments and rebounds.”
The Stars gave themselves enough cushion to hold on. That's a luxury they won't be able to count on as they go forward, especially against a Howell team hoping to make the program's first state semifinal appearance.
“We missed a lot of free throws. We didn't convert at the line like we should have,” Butler said. “We learn from our mistakes. When we get to practice we'll make that correction.”