On a warm February night, in the last game at of the 2016-17 season at Roberts Gym, and with the playoffs just around the corner, the entire Webster men’s basketball team was united for the first time.
For the first half of the season, the Statesmen were without their junior five-star recruit Carte’Are Gordon; for much of the second half, they were without their engine, head coach Jay Blossom.
Finally, last night, after playing 22 games (and winning 20) with a missing piece, Webster had Gordon, Blossom and everyone else together for the first time. With all the pieces to the puzzle finally filled in, the result was a 71-62 senior night win over Pattonville (15-8) to clinch the Suburban South Conference title.
“We didn’t play as well as we have been playing,” Blossom said. “We’ll take the win; it’s a conference win, and after playing Vashon last night I knew it was going to be a tough game for us to get up for mentally.”
It had to be a tough game for Blossom personally to prepare for mentally as well. The 400-game-winner was stuck at home for over a month recovering from an unexpected eye surgery in early January. He made his return in a game on a big time stage, a packed house at iconic Roberts Gym for senior night and Douglass night, the annual honorary game of Webster’s historically black Douglass High School.
“There were points there where I wished I was home at times, the way things were going, but it’s great to be around my kids again,” Blossom said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m glad I’m here.”
Dressed in their traditional purple and gold Douglass High uniforms, the Statesmen were anything but perfect. A night after using every ounce of fight in them to rally from down 17 and beat Missouri’s top-ranked Vashon, they struggled to find a groove against Pattonville early on.
Blossom gave a nod to the team’s seniors by starting all five of them in place of Gordon and junior Louisville commit Courtney Ramey. Despite senior Kevin Butler’s gritty effort, taking a charge and adding four points, three rebounds and a steal in the first quarter, Webster only led 12-8 after one.
When Gordon came into the game, he didn’t stay long. He was given a technical for a second straight night after mouthing off to a referee, then was sidelined for the entire second quarter.
“He has a reputation, and he knows that. People are going to try to get under his skin,” Blossom said. “Hopefully it’s a learning experience. He’s gotten a lot better at it, but he’s got a ways to go obviously.”
With Gordon out, Webster got a second quarter boost from an unexpected hero. Junior RJ Wright gets playing time every game, but not much of it. He’s small and often overlooked as a shooter next to sophomore three-point specialist Ray Adams. For four minutes last night though, Wright stole the show.
In those four minutes, Wright scored 11 points, hitting three straight triples to guide Webster to a 15-point lead. The first two were identical, surprisingly launched from way behind the arc on the wing. Then after a Statesmen steal, they found him in the corner for a transition three that brought the house down.
Webster took a 34-25 halftime lead without a single point from Gordon. He didn’t score his first points until with 3:30 left in the third quarter, but when he finally did, he didn’t stop.
Pattonville had chipped to within six before it started raining dunks in Roberts. Up 40-34, senior Cam Potts and Gordon both had big slams, sparking a 14-3 run that included ten unanswered points to give Webster a 54-37 lead. In the last three-and-a-half minutes of the third, Gordon tallied seven points, three blocks, two rebounds and an assist. He finished with 14 points (all in the second half) and seven rebounds.
Potts had a strong showing in his last at Roberts, scoring a team-leading 15 and adding seven rebounds of his own. In a complete effort, Webster had five players in double figures. Ramey had an “off night” with 10, and senior Isaiah Ford stayed hot, following up a 16-point night at Vashon with 13 more.
Though Pattonville worked back within single-digits late in the fourth, Webster finished off the 71-62 win. As the lights go out at Roberts for the season, the Statesmen have their eyes set on a deep run that they hope will take them all the way to Mizzou Arena.
“I told the guys before the game that we’ve got two weeks before Districts right now,” Blossom said. “Ten days to get better, each and every one of those days, and if we do that, the rest will take care of itself.”
This team has been getting better all year. At 21-2 now, the Statesmen have won 15 straight, playing against some of the best teams in the Midwest. In the Missouri Coaches Association poll that came out two days ago, they were ranked number one in the state for the first time in years.
A lot of the recent success is thanks to assistant coach Scott Stallcup, who went 11-0 as the interim head coach in Blossom’s absence. Stallcup, who has coached with Blossom for over a decade, has made it clear he prefers his usual role, saying last week after a win over Iowa’s top-ranked team, “Just one more week of this.” Last night, he looked like he’d never been happier.
“Coach Stallcup did an unbelievable job with them while I was gone, which I knew he would,” Blossom said. “We’ve had a lot of really emotional games against really good teams, and we look like a team that’s been through a lot of games like that. We need to rest, regroup, and get ready for these next two weeks … hopefully four weeks.”
Visit Our Sponsors