It had all of the makings of a classic championship battle when sixth-seeded Ladue and fourth-seeded Francis Howell squared off in the Mary Institute Holiday Invitational title game on Thursday at MICDS.
For the first 16 minutes, the two clubs traded big shot after big shot and run after run.
But in the second half, the bigger and more athletic Rams simply overpowered and wore down the smallish Vikings, and Ladue captured the tournament championship with a dominating 76-56 victory.
Ladue (7-2), which beat Parkway South (77-66) in Wednesday’s semifinal round, got the upper hand early thanks to a 11-3 run that was keyed a Trent Stiebler three-ball and polished off by a Tate Hotz three-pointer that pushed the Rams out to a 15-5 just 4 minutes, nine seconds into the first quarter.
The Rams got balanced scoring with four players in double figures as Hotz erupted for 20 points, 12 of them from beyond the three-point arc. Steibler had 13 points, while River Rhoads and 10 points and Toyon Drummer had 10 points each.
Down 21-10 in the second quarter, Howell (8-2) came storming back with a 9-0 run of its own as Kyle Grahntham kick started the surge with a three and then freshman forward Matt Schark drilled a three-ball from the left perimeter to push the Vikings ahead 22-21 with 5:08 left in in the second quarter.
The Vikings held a one-point lead in the final minute of the first half but Ladue guard Jaylen Boyd knocked a three with 37 seconds left and the Rams carried a 32-30 edge into the halftime break.
Howell looked to match shots Ladue in the third quarter but the Rams size, tough defense, and rebounding held the Vikings to just eight points in the quarter.
Ladue raced to a 49-38 lead after three quarters and pulled away from there.
Ryan Spears and Schark led Howell with 13 and 10 points.
The Vikings finished second in the tournament for the second consecutive season. Howell was bested by Westminster Christian Academy in last year’s championship game.
Notes: In the Girls championship game, MICDS won its fourth consecutive tournament title with a 48-30 win over Fort Zumwalt North. Zumwalt North (8-3) went 2-1 in the MICDS Holiday Invitational.
Zumwalt North standouts Victoria Nesslage and Rachel Pudlowski were held to just 7 and 6 points.