By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. – It didn’t take long for Willard to assert itself on Wednesday night.
The two-seed Tigers started on a 15-0 run and led by as many as 26 in a 74-54 victory over Crane in the opening round of the Blue and Gold Tournament at Hammons Student Center.
Crane’s first points didn’t come until 3:25 were left in the first quarter.
“We had a lot of energy,” Willard coach Jeremy Dresslaer said. “We came out, pushed the tempo and did everything we talked about. We only had two turnovers in the first half, and when we get shots, we’re pretty efficient at shooting the ball.”
Daniel Abreu had 11 points in the quarter for Willard – four more than Crane scored as a team.
“We moved the ball around really well and got open looks,” Abreu said. “We all had energy to come out and got the shots we wanted.”
It wasn’t all domination for Willard, though. After leading 52-26 at half, Willard struggled for most of the second half. The Tigers had 15 turnovers in the second half, allowing Crane back in the game. Crane used a 16-4 run to get within 62-51, but couldn’t get any closer.
Dresslaer attributed the team’s second-half struggles to inexperience.
“We have two guys that have played varsity before,” he said. “Crane came out and changed things a bit, and we didn’t adjust.”
Abreu finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Tigers. He made all five 3-point attempts.
“He did a great job,” Dresslaer said. “We’ve been talking to him all year about being a three-level scorer. Getting inside, getting 3-pointers next, and getting mid-range. The good players do it all. Sometimes he gets caught up where he’s only shooting 3-pointers or only shooting layups, but he did a really good job tonight doing everything.”
Mo Grayer added 19 points for Willard, while Tyler Campbell led Crane with 17 points.
Willard will now meet seventh-seed Fair Grove in the Blue Division quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in JQH Arena. Crane draws Hollister in the consolation bracket at 12:30 p.m. in Hammons Student Center.
Willard 74, Crane 54
Willard 23 29 8 14 74
Crane 7 19 19 9 54
Willard: Abreu 32, Grayer 19, Oedewaldt 6, Bushnell 6, Young 6, Mowell 2, Hill 1
Crane: Campbell 17, Smith 7, Vaught 6, Wes Branstetter 6, Cloyd 6, Woodward 3, Killman 2