By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. – If you hadn’t heard of Daniel Abreu before this week, he’s trying to get your attention.
One day after going for 32 points against Crane, the 6-foot-5 junior posted 38 points on Thursday afternoon as Willard got past a feisty Fair Grove team 61-57 in a Blue Division quarterfinal of the Blue & Gold Tournament at JQH Arena.
At 70 points through two games, Abreu needs 53 more to overtake Jasen Fronabarger’s (Aurora – 1994) tournament record of 122 points.
“He’s a three-level scorer,” Willard coach Jeremy Dresslaer said. “When they’re sinking in on him, he can shoot the midrange. When they’re in the midrange, he can shoot the 3. When they’re out on the 3, because he has a quick first step, he can go by them.
“He’s still trying to figure out how to read defenses. He’s just a junior, so he’s still learning, but sometimes he predetermines what he’s going to do. He’s starting to become a better basketball player and read defenses. When you score 38, that’s pretty good evidence you read the defense well.”
Abreu got his 38 points on 15-of-19 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He added 10 rebounds.
“Most games, we probably have the best player on the floor,” Dresslaer said. “We did a better job of getting him the ball in positions where he could score.”
It wasn’t easy for Willard, though. After starting the game on an 11-2 run, the Tigers had to withstand several charges from the Eagles. The twin duo of Kamron and Kyle Stacey spearheaded a Fair Grove rally that tied the game at 21-21 after the first quarter. Kamron finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. Kyle had 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals.
Fair Grove used a 17-2 run over a four-plus minute stretch in the first half to grab a 32-23 lead. The Eagles used their transition game to spark the rally, creating layups off Willard turnovers.
“They surprised us a little bit,” Dresslaer said. “I didn’t think they’d get up and down the floor like that. We played fire with fire for a little bit. Basketball’s a game of runs and they’re a really talented team. I think if we play that game 10 times, we go 4-6, maybe 5-5.”
Willard finished the first half on a 12-0 run, snatching a 35-32 lead by halftime.
“We did a good job slowing down and handling their pressure and executing,” Dresslaer said. “This is probably the proudest I’ve been with our team on the execution side.”
Fair Grove tied the game twice in the third quarter and got as close as 59-57 with 13 seconds left in the fourth, but a breakaway dunk by Abreu put the game away for good.
Willard shot 55 percent from the floor (23-of-42) and 47 percent from 3-point range (7-of-15). After making 8 of its first 14 shots, Fair Grove connected on 13 of its final 37 to shoot 41 percent for the game. They made only 3 of 18 3-point attempts (17 percent).
Willard will now face Rogersville in the semifinals on Friday night at 5:30 p.m. at JQH Arena. Fair Grove will play Nixa at 2 p.m. Friday in Hammons Student Center the fifth-place bracket.
Willard 61, Fair Grove 57
Willard: Abreu 38, Grayer 11, Hauck 9, Oedewaldt 2, Young 1
Fair Grove: Kamron Stacey 21, Kyle Stacey 13, Gilpin 9, Thompson 8, Oplotnik 4, Hoskins 2