It was a classic rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal match up. The only difference is that this year, Sacred Heart won by a score of 64-61 and are making the school’s first-ever trip a basketball final four.
The West Platte Blue Jays made the Sedalia bunch earn the win every step of the way. The game was a nip-and-tuck battle in which neither team held more than a six-point lead throughout the contest.
The Grems and Blue Jays were locked up in a 13-13 tie at the end of the first quarter. SH senior Stephan Cox carried his team early, scoring all 13 of the Gremlins’ first quarter points.
The second period was more of the same. West Platte’s all-state senior, Adam Roe, hit a bucket at the 6:40 mark to give his team their biggest lead of the half at 17-13. That four point advantage was short lived as junior Chase Lyles drained a 3-pointer on the next trip down to close the Grems within a point.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half with SH senior Jimmy Villalobos scoring at the buzzer to pull the Grems within one at 27-26. Cox finished the first half with 15 points for Sacred Heart, while Villalobos and Lyles chipped in with 6 and 5 respectively.
West Platte made a half time adjustment by moving the 6’5” Roe inside on offense to begin the 3rd quarter. Roe scored the first 7 points of the quarter for the Blue Jays allowing them to extend their lead to 34-29 at the 4:35 mark of the quarter.
Gremlin coach Steve Goodwin called a time-out to make a defensive adjustment and the move paid off in more ways than one. Coming out of the time out Lyles hit another 3 to pull the Grems within a bucket at 34-32. In addition, the West Platte standout was held scoreless for the remainder of the third quarter. The game was all locked up at 42-42 at the end of the third.
The game was tied at 52 a piece with 3:57 to go when Lyles hit a floater from the baseline. The Grems held and Villalobos hit one of two from the free-throw line on the Grems next possession extending the Gremlin lead to 55-52.
With 3:02 remaining West Platte junior guard Cody Guthrie dribbled the ball off of his foot and out of bounds giving the ball back to the Grems. On the ensuing possession Cox was fouled and made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 56-52. At the 2:30 mark of the quarter the Gremlins forced another turnover and Lyles converted to give the Grems their biggest lead of the game at 58-52.
From there the Grems converted 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch and came away with the 64-61 victory.
Stephan Cox finished the game with 27 for the Grems. Chase Lyles added 17 and Jimmy Villalobos scored 13 points and hauled down a man-sized 17 rebounds. Senior Clint Spangler and juniors Garrett Strange and Keyairre Marshall also played vital roles in helping to create a 21-7 turnover advantage for the Gremlins and playing a major role in the win.
Roe finished with 21 points for the Blue Jays. West Platte finishes their season at 27-2 and completes a two-year run of 58-3.
The Gremlins are now 29-0 on the season. They take on the Thayer Bobcats (27-3) at 6:40 p.m. Thursday in the Hearnes Center in the MSHSAA Class 2 State Tournament semifinals.