By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WEBB CITY, Mo. – Willard coach Jeremy Dresslaer thought Tuesday might be a trap game for his boys basketball team.
It was anything but.
Juniors Maurice Grayer and Daniel Abreu combined for 52 points and the visiting Tigers routed Webb City 76-45 inside the Cardinal Dome in a Central Ozarks Conference tilt.
“Honestly I was surprised by the score,” Dresslaer said. “I’ve been really worried about this game. I thought it was a trap game, not for the fact they weren’t good and we could end up losing but the fact is they were really good and we’re coming off a big tournament with the Nixa tournament. I felt like this was going to be an eight-point game. That’s what I told the football coach when I was talking about it. I was like either they win or we win by eight points. I think they’re really good athletes but we in the second half did a really good job executing.”
Webb City scored the first points of the game, and later trailed 12-10, but it was all Willard the rest of the night.
The Tigers were a perfect 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the first quarter while building a 20-13 advantage.
The lead quickly grew to double digits when Grayer opened the second quarter with a three-point play. After baskets by senior Riley Young and Abreu, Willard led by 14 points before Webb City finally scored on a three pointer by junior Austin Bash.
Another three by Webb City junior Tanner Rogers cut it to eight, but Willard freshman Caden Mowell countered with two free throws and Grayer connected from three-point range. Willard went on to lead 39-28 at the half.
“It was nice,” Dresslaer said of the quick start. “We’ve really been working with confidence with our role players and it’s really starting to show. We still had some of the yips with some of our other role players but that’s part of it. I’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played varsity and we’re still trying to figure out how to win games. We’re really starting to execute and flow. This was a really good win. One of our best wins of the season.”
The game got out of hand in the third quarter. Webb City failed to score on its first nine possessions – a span of nearly four-and-a-half minutes – and Willard’s Grayer, Abreu and senior Cole Oedewaldt made it a 19-point game.
Webb City junior Terrell Kabala finally ended the drought at the 3:34 mark to pull his team to within 47-30.
A Kabala three pointer later in the quarter cut the lead to 16 points, but Grayer scored twice in the final 23 seconds and Willard led 55-35 heading into the fourth.
“We were pretty frustrated with our defense the first half,” Dresslaer said. “We take pride in our defense. We had to change what we were doing, some small tweaks. They made a lot of shots in the first half over the top of us because we weren’t ready to play and we just really focused on defense. I feel like I’ve got the guys who are skilled enough to score so we spend a lot of time talking defense.”
Willard added seven more free throws in the fourth quarter. The Tigers finished the game 16-for-20 at the line.
The lead hit 30-plus points with 1:44 remaining when Willard freshman Haden Brown scored.
“We’ve got to do a better job of sticking to a game plan early,” Webb City coach Jason Horn said. “I thought we had the right idea defensively, we just got lost a few times trying to deny their two best players. Our help guys have to be a little better. They forced us to come out and guard them. Abreu, he’s really too good for anybody to have a single defender on. When you have to do that you’re really at their mercy at that point. I was a load and it changed everything we were trying to do when he caught the ball.”
Abreu finished with 30 points, scoring 15 in each half. Grayer added 22. The pair was a combined 12-for-14 at the free throw line.
Dresslaer said the 30-point effort was right at Abreu’s average, which was 29.7 points per game heading into the Nixa tournament. He added a 39-point game there.
“I’m fortunate that him and Mo are juniors,” he said. “He’s the most fundamentally sound and complete high school player I’ve seen at his age.”
Webb City was led by 13 points from Rogers and 11 from Kabala.
“We’ve got to be more composed early,” Horn said. “I think we lost some composure and then they were able to get that lead on us a little bit. We got frustrated and made some plays that are uncharacteristic for us. When you do that with a good team they’re going to run you up.”
Willard improved to 12-7 overall and 2-1 in COC play. Webb City fell to 9-8 and 0-3.