It was all new and exciting for the Timberland Wolves when they faced the St. Louis University High Junior Billikens on Saturday at Hyland Arena on the Lindenwood University campus.
Unfortunately for Timberland, by late in the fourth quarter, the Wolves knew their magical postseason run was done and there would be no trip to the state tournament next week.
SLUH, led by standout junior guard Brandon McKissic, and senior guards David Jackson, and Matt Nester, broke open a close game with a biog second quarter surge and rolled to a 76-51 victory over the Wolves in a Class 5 quarterfinal game.
“When you get a team that’s together and as one all wants the same goals, it makes it a lot easier (to win), Jackson said. “I feel like this is a team that is going down in SLUH history. I mean two state championship appearances, they don’t happen that often.”
SLUH (20-9) will be returning to the Class 5 semifinals for the second straight season and will face the winner of the CBC-Chaminade quarterfinal game in a semifinal match up at Mizzou Arena Thursday March 17 at 6:50 p.m.
The teams traded shots and a Grady Daniels bucket put Timberland up 24-20 just 2:07 into the second quarter.
SLUH changed the momentum for good shortly after that.
Picking up their energy, the Junior Billikens dialed up the pressure on defense, got out in transition and McKissic and Nestor keyed a 16-5 run with a pair of buckets and a pair three-balls as SLUH went into the break with a 36-25 lead that left the Wolves dazed.
“I think what really caused us some problems is they really picked up their defensive pressure, caused us to kind of stall out a little bit and have some bad possessions and then Nestor gets loose and hits a couple of big shots there down the stretch late and kind of opened up and that was kind of difficult to overcome at that point.”
McKissic and Jackson began to knock down shots in the second half as the Junior Billikens pushed the lead to as much as 19 points in the third quarter.
SLUH continued to roll in the fourth quarter as their experienced core of Jackson, Nestor and McKissic kept finding ways to score.
“That experience, it says a lot,” SLUH coach Erwin Claggett said. “They had lofty expectations and played a real rigorous schedule this year and teams we played last year, and playing a lot of big games this year prepared us for this moment.”
McKissic paced the Junior Billikens with a game-high 24 points while Jackson finished with 20 points and Nestor pumped in 13.
Despite getting worn down in the second half, Timberland turned in a valiant effort.
Enrique Tankins and Grady Daniels led the way with 12 points and 10 points. Senior post Andrew Voss scored 9 points, and senior guard Jahwan Sims finished with 8 points on the day.
Timberland (21-7) came up short in its first trip to the quarterfinal round but the Wolves left knowing that they have hopefully put their program in a special place that can keep them on the radar for years to come.
“There’s been a buzz around the school with our kids and the student-body and I’m hoping that it sets a bar for our kids coming back that they want to work harder,” DeWeese said. “We are losing six seniors this year and that is going to a big blow to the program but I’m hoping it sets a sight since we had a lot of firsts this year. “Hopefully now we are over that hump and some these kids will be driven to get back here.”
Notes: In the girls Class 5 quarterfinal session on Saturday afternoon, Francis Howell beat Webster Groves 56-50.
The Vikings will be making their first ever state tournament appearance in Columbia next weekend.