By Matt Turer / Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
REPUBLIC, Mo. – Survive and advance is far from new basketball terminology, but it’s become a key part of the rallying cry for the Willard Tigers.
The 2-seed Tigers absorbed foul trouble and 3-seed Parkview’s athleticism Tuesday night, riding 24 points and a wave of confidence from Mo Grayer to a 53-45 win over the Vikings in the Class 5 District 12 semi-finals.
After the game outside the Tigers locker room, head coach Jeremy Dresslaer kept repeating those words: survive and advance. Survive and advance. Survive and advance.
“We treat every season where every tournament is a quarter,” Dresslaer said. “This the end of that fourth quarter. And to get out of districts, that’s overtime. You want to be playing in overtime in March, so sometimes you’ve just got to survive and advance. It doesn’t matter how you win, you’ve just got to win. Because if you don’t win, you’re going home.”
Nearly three months after falling 90-85 to Parkview during the regular season, Willard still isn’t going home. That loss is both a distant memory, and a lingering mental note.
“All those losses we’ve had, all those hits, were preparation for this game, and I’m really proud of us,” Dresslaer said.
Grayer scored 14 of Willard’s 23 points in the first half, outpacing Parkview point guard Dontae Taylor and lifting up the Tigers offense just enough for its defense establish itself in the game’s second half. Taylor led the Vikings with 23 points.
After entering halftime with a 24-23 lead, Parkview was outscored 30-21 in the second half despite ongoing foul trouble for Willard’s Daniel Abreu. Abreu fouled out in the game’s final minute but still finished with 16 points.
“I was really frustrated in the first half,” Dresslaer said. “I think the stage may have gotten to us, but we just weren’t us. But we came out in the second half and did a great job executing.”
With Abreu in foul trouble, Willard slowed down its offense to a crawl in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back-to-back possessions lasted from 45 seconds to over a minute, and the Tigers ended nearly all of their extended possessions with points.
“Obviously with Daniel in foul trouble they were at the point where they were gonna do what was going to give them the chance to win, and they extended possessions really well,” Parkview head coach Landon Cornish said. “We’re kind of right there and then the ball goes zip by our head and ends up in a layup after a minute-and-a-half possession. That’s hard to do. They deserve it.”
Parkview finishes at 13-13 in a season that saw the Vikings compete in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions and make their Ozarks Sports Zone Magazine cover debut with Missouri State commit Ty Freeman, who missed much of the season with an injury.
“[The season has] taken its toll emotionally and physically,” Cornish said. “We had a loaded, loaded schedule with playing teams out of state and in the Tournament of Champions. And we had a lot of injuries you can’t plan for, but our guys stepped up and played hard all year long.”
Willard (17-9) faces top-seed Republic (21-6) in Friday’s district championship. Tip is set for 7:45 pm.
PHS |14|10|10|11| — |45|
WHS |13|10|16|14| — |53|
Parkview- Dontae Taylor 23, Latre Morrison 11, Anthony Green 5, Elijah Whitley 3
Willard- Mo Grayer 24, Daniel Abreu 16, Caden Mowell 7, Riley Young 6