As the Webster men’s basketball team took to Danis Fieldhouse for an emotional rematch with a fierce rival, its head coach Jay Blossom sat at home in front of an iPad.
Blossom watched via live stream as the Statesmen ran SLUH out of its own gym in an emphatic 59-43 win, one that turned the tables on a series that hadn’t gone Webster’s way over the past two-and-a-half years.
After the game, the team got a congratulatory call in the locker room from its absent skipper.
“I’m just really, really happy for them,” Blossom said. “Obviously it’s an emotional game for them after last time, and I thought they were spectacular.”
Blossom hasn’t had much to cheer for lately, missing the last two weeks on medical leave as he recovers from eye surgery. Tonight though, the 400-game-winner had a lot to be proud of.
“That’s about the best medicine I’ve had,” Blossom said.
Junior Carte’Are Gordon, in his second eligible game of the season, scored 18 points and added nine rebounds to fuel the Statesmen in an area where they struggled last time around against SLUH: the paint.
Junior Courtney Ramey added eight points and seven rebounds in a game where just about everyone contributed for Webster. Senior Cam Potts, with chants raining down to constantly remind him of his missed free throws at the tail end of a one-point loss to SLUH in December, performed outstandingly. Along with hitting some timely shots, he was tasked with defending the Junior Bills’ senior guard and leading scorer Brandon McKissic. Potts, playing in foul trouble for most of the second half, still shut down McKissic.
The Statesmen used an early 14-0 run defined by high-pressure half-court defense and capped by a sophomore Ray Adams three to erase its only deficit of the game, 2-0. After Webster took a nine point lead into the second quarter, the Junior Bills chipped away, getting back within four on multiple occasions. Gordon’s tear drop at the halftime buzzer gave Webster a 27-21 lead at the break.
If there was any fear of another heartbreaking loss to SLUH, the Statesmen wiped it out in the third quarter. A 17-2 run to start the second half was punctuated by two mouth-dropping alley-oops between the All-American duo of Ramey and Gordon.
On the first, Ramey lobbed it for his big man from behind the three-point arc. Moments later, the two nationally ranked prospects exchanged a nifty give-and-go that ended with Gordon flying through traffic to finish Ramey’s set-up.
“When I met (Gordon) my freshman year, that’s kind of what we did but I was just throwing stuff off the backboard to him,” Ramey said. “The chemistry has always been there. At times we argue with each other, but we know we both love each other.”
Ramey had some personal business involved in the game as well, with Louisville head coach Rick Pitino in attendance to see him. Ramey is planning to verbally commit to one of his 13 finalist schools next week.
Webster led by as many as 21, waltzing to victory in a fourth quarter with considerably less noise coming from the SLUH side of the gym.
“The coaches did an unbelievable job,” Blossom said. “Besides a short stretch in the second quarter, they dominated.”
Interim head coach Scott Stallcup refused to take any credit for guiding the team without Blossom, saying simply, “Great team win, baby!”
After the devastating loss to SLUH a month ago in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament (without Gordon), this win will resonate as one of the more special moments in recent seasons for the Statesmen. They had lost four of their last five to the Junior Bills, including two District championship games.
Now, a hungry Webster team will go in search of even more special moments. With this win serving as a tone-setter for the rest of the season, the Statesmen will try to finish something they’ve been building for years.
“We have a vision to win State this year,” Ramey said. “We’ve got to achieve that goal.”
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