By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Daniel Abreu is blessed.
Blessed to be on a winning Willard team with supportive teammates, blessed to excel at the sport he loves, blessed to craft his game with his father.
And as of Saturday, December 29, 2018: Blessed to hold the scoring record for southwest Missouri’s most tradition-rich tournament.
Abreu, a junior forward for Willard, broke the record for most points in a single Blue and Gold Tournament.
With 29 points against West Plains in a Blue Division third-place game on Saturday, Abreu finished with 125 points over four games in four days. He surpassed the previous record of 122 set by Aurora’s Jasen Fronabarger in 1994.
This year marks the 73rd edition of the Blue and Gold Tournament.
“I (knew I was close coming in), but it wasn’t my main focus,” Abreu said. “Win before points. That’s always my main focus.
“It feels good for sure. This is a blessing.”
Abreu scored 34 in Willard’s tournament-opening win against Crane, 38 in a quarterfinals win over Fair Grove and 24 in a semifinals loss to Rogersville.
Against West Plains, Abreu tied Fronabarger’s record with about 1:30 remaining. Willard trailed by six-to-10 points for most of the fourth quarter against West Plains.
“When I felt the game was a little out of reach by the pace of everything, we started running set plays for him. We knew he was about three shots off,” said Willard coach Jeremy Dresslaer. “We ran some plays to try to get him that record.
“It’s one of those things: If we’re not going to win, we’re going to at least try to get him a record and make it special.”
With under 30 seconds left, Willard dialed up a set play for Abreu. He came off a screen and swished a 3-pointer from the left wing.
“I had no clue I was that close. I’m serious,” Abreu said. “I just shot the shot. It went in and people started shouting.”
The 6’5” Abreu has had a breakout junior season, displaying not only his scoring abilities around the basket but from 3-point range as well.
“I’m always working on my shot with my dad,” Abreu said. “My dad’s helped me a lot. He’s always getting me to go shoot. It’s a constant process.”
Dresslaer, in his first season as Willard’s head coach, praised Abreu for his team-first mentality.
“He’s bought into his role and is very coachable,” Dresslaer said. “Really, our whole team is coachable right now. We have IQ and decision-making work to do, but we’re getting better. We’re preparing for February and March.”
For Abreu, he’s still adjusting to the attention and accolades.
“The media… I haven’t had this before,” Abreu said. “They start tweeting and stuff. I really just have to focus on the game. My coaches have helped me with that a lot. So have my teammates. They’ve kept me focused.”