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Posted On: 02/16/18 9:00 AM
Both Vashon and Webster Groves have their sights on defending their respective state championships. Vashon is the two-time Class 4 champions while Webster Groves took the Class 5 state crown last year. The two teams got together for a late-season showdown to get ready for the upcoming postseason for the second year in succession. A number of Division I head coaches were in the house, including Cuonzo Martin of Missouri, Frank Martin of South Carolina, Brad Underwood of Illinois and Tim Jankovich of SMU.
Webster Groves took the victory last year, but Vashon gained a measure of revenge this year by taking a 75-70 win before a capacity crowd of more than 2,000 at a sweltering St. Louis Community College at Meramec gym on Thursday night. The competition will be formidable in Classes 4 and 5, but both teams look to be primed and ready to make a run at defending their respective championships in the coming weeks.
For much of the season, the Wolverines have ridden the offensive excellence of 2019 guard Mario McKinney, especially in the big games. On this night, Vashon used a balance attack to overcome a brilliant individual performance by Webster’s Courtney Ramey. McKinney led the way with 19 points while 2019 guard Donyae McCaskill added 15 points. 6’5″ 2019 forward Cyrus Alexander scored 12 points while 2020 guard Phillip Russell added 10 points. Alexander is primarily an inside player, but he knocked down two 3-pointers, displaying a much improved perimeter stroke. A combination of transition buckets, timely 3-point shooting, free throws and some key inside buckets from McCaskill in the fourth quarter won the day for the Wolverines.
Five-star 2018 point guard Courtney Ramey of Webster Groves was tremendous in defeat with a game-high 32 points along with nine rebounds, three assists and a block, plus the game’s most spectacular play on a steal and dunk at the end of the first half. Ramey also had the job of doing the majority of the ball handling against a wave of Vashon defenders in the full court press. If that wasn’t enough, Ramey spent much of the evening guarding Vashon’s McKinney. That’s a full night’s work.
As the first half came to a close, Ramey stripped McKinney at halfcourt and raced down court and threw down a thunderous dunk over McKinney at the buzzer to give the Statesmen a 33-30 halftime lead. Everyone in the building went bonkers. There was also a lot of woofing afterwards. In the aftermath, a few technical fouls were given out. None bigger that to Webster’s 6’8″ 2018 forward Carte’are Gordon, who was ejected for leaving the bench to join the fray and making contact with a opposing player. That left the Statesmen without their top inside player for the entire second half.
Ramey opened the second half with a free throw to put Webster Groves up 34-30. Russell of Vashon responded by hitting four consecutive technical free throws to tie the game at 34-34. Vashon went on to score the next 15 points to complete a 19-0 run to take a 49-34 lead. The key culprit was the pressure, which forced Webster Groves to play fast and furious, and in turn caused many turnovers leading to easy transition buckets. Their depth, length and athleticism really took its toll in that third quarter. McKinney was big during that decisive run with eight points, including a couple of impressive dunks in transition. Without Gordon’s presence in the lineup, the Statesmen were left without their game-changing performer in the post, leaving Ramey to become a one-man gang for much of the second half.
Two complimentary players who really stood out for their respective teams were the aforementioned McCaskill of Vashon and 6’2″ 2018 guard R.J. Wright of Webster Groves. McCaskill scored 15 points while Wright scored 17 points to support Ramey. Both have done an excellent job in their roles throughout the season. McCaskill, a transfer from Kickapoo, is a freaky athletic guard who can really score around the basket. He threw down three dunks on the evening and also scored on a circus like reverse layup late in the game to keep Vashon in the lead. Wright is an excellent 3-point shooter who has also developed a knack for being around the ball and picking up offensive rebounds for buckets. He also moves well without the ball.