WILDWOOD – After taking a buzzer-beating gut-punch, Justin Mathes figured his team would need a moment to collect itself before starting overtime Thursday night.
The Webster Groves boys basketball coach, Mathes was never more happy to be wrong.
“I knew we had a good chance when we came to the bench after that shot, and dudes were locked in,” the coach said. “They weren’t down, they weren’t pointing fingers. They stayed together through about as much adversity as you can face, and that’s what helped us.”
Webster Groves overcame De Smet’s near half-court heave at the end of regulation to pull out an 81-79 overtime win in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Holiday Tournament at Lafayette High.
The No. 4 large school in the STLhighschoolsports.com rankings and the No. 3 seed, Webster Groves (9-1) won the tournament for the second time since 2018. It was not played last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Statesmen also snapped a two-game losing streak to the Spartans, who beat them, 69-50, last December.
The No. 6 large school and No. 5 seed, De Smet (7-2) has played for the tournament title three consecutive times and finished as the runner-up each time.
Over the next three minutes, the Statesmen grabbed a lead only to watch the Spartans answer on the other end. Senior guard Ethan Chartrand scored a layup off an inbound pass to put Webster Groves up ahead 63-59 with 33 seconds to go. Chartrand had 12 points and four rebounds.
De Smet senior standout point guard Brian Taylor answered with a tough jumper on the other end to cut the lead to 63-61. After a pair of free throws from Webster Groves senior guard Matt Enright, Taylor answered with a tough runner to cut the lead to 65-63 with 15 seconds to go.
Enright hit just one of his next two free throws, and De Smet got the rebound with 12.9 seconds.
As De Smet tried to get a quality look the ball found its way to Duff well beyond the 3-point line. He put up the prayer and it was answered right before the buzzer sending the Spartan faithful into a frenzy. Duff finished the game with 19 points and hauled in seven rebounds.
After taking that haymaker, Webster Groves came to the bench ready to go back to work.
“We stayed together,” Enright said. “We told each other that if we did the things we needed to we’d win this. We needed to stay the course, that’s all we kept saying.”
Webster Groves junior guard CJ Lang came up huge in the extra period as he had the first five points and buried a pair of clutch free throws in the final 34.3 seconds. He finished the night with 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
“I love CJ Lang,” Enright said. “He hits those shots, I could not be more happy for him. He’s such a great player, he rises to the moment when we need him most.”
Lang’s biggest contributions came on the defensive end as he had the primary responsibility of guarding Taylor. Lang managed to stay on the court and make the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee signee work for what he got. Taylor finished with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“My defense was my main focus this game,” Lang said. “It was tough but you have to move on to the next play if he hits a tough shot and get back on D. He’s going to hit them, he’s going to hit them.”
Enright put the Statesmen up 79-73 after knocking down a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left in overtime. But Duff answered on the other end with 3-pointer.
Enright buried another pair of free throws with nine seconds to play that made Taylor’s 3 with mere seconds to go moot.
Enright finished with 29 points, three rebounds and five assists.
“The bigger the stage, these guys show up,” Mathes said. “It’s a great confidence builder, everyone knows how good De Smet is so you take that one as a notch on the belt, take two days and move on to the next one.”
The Spartans gave themselves an extra four minutes to try and get past the Statesmen when junior forward Justin Duff knocked down a 3-pointer near the mid-court line right before the fourth-quarter buzzer to tie the game at 66.
“It’s one thing to win a St. Louis tradition, but to do it in that fashion after Justin Duff hits his 19th consecutive three against the Statesmen,” Mathes said with a smile. “The mental fortitude, toughness, fortitude, resilience, you name it, (we showed it).”
Webster Groves had to stage its own rally. The Spartans took a 49-44 lead moments into the fourth quarter when Duff knocked down a jumper.
De Smet senior forward Jemeal Goines scored his own layup to make it 51-46 with 6 minutes and 53 seconds to play in the fourth. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
That's when Iziah Purvey got loose. Webster Groves’ 6-foot-4 sophomore swingman, Purvey scored the next nine points for the Statesmen to push them in front 55-53 with 4:22 to play.
Purvey finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“Our team, we had another gear and we played hard,” Purvey said. “We played together and we got the win.”