By John Miller
Clever, MO – The Clever Bluejays thought they had the game in hand, but McAuley Catholic thought differently.
After leading by 19 points at halftime, the Bluejays survived a late scare from McAuley Catholic in a 60-53 semifinal win at the Clever Tournament on Friday night.
Top-seed Clever will now draw third-seed Hartville at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in the championship game. Hartville downed Fair Grove 69-64 in overtime later on Friday night.
Clever (3-0) raced to a 27-13 lead over McAuley Catholic early into the second quarter on Friday night and finished the half on a 7-0 run, building the lead to 37-18 at half. But it almost wasn’t enough.
They made 17 of 30 shots (57 percent) in the first half and held the Warriors to 6 of 17 (35 percent).
“We did a good job with the scouting report of staying in tight,” Clever coach Luke Brosius said. “I thought we were aggressive and attacking and getting good shots.
McAuley Catholic forward Jake Doyle had two points at halftime. He scored 18 in the third quarter alone. The 6-foot-4 junior made 7 of 8 shots in the third quarter, including a pair of 3s, spearheading a Warriors comeback. McAuley Catholic outscored Clever 26-11 in the quarter, cutting the Bluejays lead to 48-44.
“We didn’t guard very well at all in the second half,” Brosius said.
Foul problems plagued the Bluejays, namely to starting point-guard Devan Hampton, who sat most of the second half in foul trouble.
“The foul trouble early in that second half hurt us,” Brosius said. Devan Hampton is a huge part of our defense and he makes things go on both ends of the court. He sat about eight minutes in the third quarter while they made that great run.
“Devan is kind of our quarterback on offense, too, and we just didn’t get good shots. Give them credit, they did a good job attacking and broke us down really well.”
Warriors guard Brendyn Taylor gave Clever fits, penetrating into the lane and then finding open teammates for points. McAuley Catholic got as close as two points (51-49) early in the fourth quarter before Clever ran off five straight points. Back-to-back baskets from Derek Sopok and Hampton helped stem the tide and hold off the Warriors.
Jakob Partee had 15 points to lead Clever, while Hampton and Sopok had 13 and 10 points, respectively. Doyle had 24 points for McAuley Catholic, with 22 coming after halftime.
McAuley Catholic will face Fair Grove in the third-place game at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
McAuley 11 7 26 9 53
Clever 19 18 11 12 60
McAuley: Jake Doyle 24, Tommy Doyle 10, Brendyn Taylor 9, Hunter Huthsing 5, Aaron Teeter 3, Dylan Lando 2
Clever: Jakob Partee 15, Devan Hampton 13, Derek Sopok 10, Jared Sopok 9, Matthew Christoffer 5, Caleb Peck 5, Mark Christoffer 3
The Hartville Eagles thought they were under-seeded in the Clever Tournament. Now, they’ll have a chance to win the win the whole thing.
The third-seed Eagles got past second-seed Fair Grove 69-64 in overtime on Friday night, setting up a date with top-seed at host Clever on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the championship game at Clever High School.
Fair Grove will face McAuley Catholic at 4 p.m. in the third-place game.
Deric Jones scored 36 points for Hartville on 13-of-17 shooting and added 10 rebounds to pace the Eagles. Dune Piper chipped in 18 points in the win. Garrett Kesterson had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Garret Potter made four 3s and finished with 16 points for Fair Grove.
“We had a little chip on our shoulder because we got seeded third in this tournament coming off a state championship,” Hartville coach Brett Reed said. “We wanted to come out and show them what we’re all about, and that we should’ve been seeded higher.”
Hartville made a statement after the opening tip, racing to an 11-0 lead and forcing Fair Grove coach Tim Brown to burn a timeout within the game’s first three minutes. Jones scored 12 points in the opening quarter, helping Hartville to a 17-10 lead.
Fair Grove quickly erased the early deficit, using a pair of Potter 3s in the second quarter to cut the deficit to one before Hartville’s Jace Keith sunk a right-wing 3-pointer ahead of the second quarter buzzer. Hartville led 29-25 at half.
Their lead stretched to nine (39-30) with six minutes remaining in the third quarter until Fair Grove finished the quarter with a 14-4 run. Evan Fullerton laid in a lob thrown by Kesterson at the buzzer, giving Fair Grove its first lead at 44-43 at the end of three.
“They were seeded above us and we knew it was going to be a grind,” Jones said.
That’s exactly what the fourth quarter was. The two teams traded leads six times in the final period, with the biggest lead being Hartville’s four-point lead early in the quarter. Fair Grove tied the game with 3:27 remaining on a pair of free throws from Kesterson and took the lead with 1:21 to go when freshman guard Cole Gilpin made a pair of free throws. But with 49 seconds remaining, Jones tied the game 61-61 on two free throws, sending the game to overtime.
“Our defense was the key for us in overtime,” Reed said. “We finally got the big stops that we needed.”
Hartville held Fair Grove to 1-of-6 shooting in the overtime period. Hartville got two early baskets from Piper to grab the lead and then made four free throws late, pulling away for the win.
“Games like that are always fun,” Jones said. “It’s always fun to get up against a team near the same talent level as us.”
Hartville shot 57 from the floor in the game (25 of 44) and made 7 of 15 3s. Fair Grove shot 49 percent (23 of 47) and made 10 of 20 3s.
Hartville 17 12 14 18 8 69
Fair Grove 10 15 19 17 3 64
Hartvile: Deric Jones 36, Dune Piper 18, Jace Keith 7, Wyatt Ward 6, Cody Kelley 2
Fair Grove: Garrett Kesterson 17, Garret Potter 16, Evan Fullerton 13, Cole Gilpin 7, David Oplotnik 6, Steven Huskey 4, Dalton Cloyd 1