The Final Four.
Its allure tugs at the will of dozens of teams. In Missouri basketball, it is a promised land for only the toughest, most elite programs.
Going into today’s State quarterfinals in front of a sellout crowd at Lindenwood University, the Webster Statesmen knew they would have be up to quite a task if they wanted to prove they belonged in that promised land. The CBC Cadets were going to be a lot to handle.
By the end of the afternoon, those Statesmen had left no doubt in anyone’s minds that they belonged. With a 76-57 rout, Webster (27-2) punched a ticket to the State semifinals at Mizzou and more than reinforced the notion that it is the most dangerous team in the tournament field.
“I’m extremely proud of my guys. They’ve been zoned in for a few weeks now, all year actually,” head coach Jay Blossom said. “They way they’ve practiced; the schedule they’ve played; I’m just really proud of them, and that was a really nice win for them.”
During a stretch in which this Webster juggernaut has won 21 straight, its most deadly weapon has been the first five minutes of the game. The Statesmen have blistered teams with early runs too big to come back from. This time, it took them a little longer to get into a rhythm.
CBC had an early 8-6 lead before the Statesmen started to fall into place with a 10-2 run. They took an 18-12 lead into the second quarter … and then Courtney Ramey decided to remind everyone why he’s a Louisville commit.
The junior guard, known for his versatility, hit back-to-back threes, hustled back to deny CBC with a big block, then found his teammate senior Cam Potts for a layup with a graceful assist through traffic from midcourt. The sequence sent the place into a frenzy, topping off a 12-0 Webster burst to go up 28-12 and signal the beginning of the end for the Cadets.
“Everything trended off our defense, then Courtney hit some big time shots,” Blossom said. “I got on them pretty good in those first four minutes, because CBC has had some incredible second halves this year. We wanted to make sure we won those first four minutes, and we did. I really thought we controlled the game from start to finish.”
By halftime, Webster’s lead was 40-20 and wouldn’t get any smaller than 17 the rest of the way.
“We came out strong and got a big lead on them early, so we were just trying to keep it steady from there on,” senior guard Cam Potts said. “Our motto is ‘first four minutes,’ so from there on we just kept trying to push.”
After the break, it was junior SLU commit Carte’Are Gordon taking over. He scored 19 of his game-leading 27 points in the second half, and 13 of them in the third quarter. The big man added eight rebounds and three blocks on the game.
“They were kind of junking us early in the game, and we finally got them out of that,” Blossom said on CBC’s defense of Gordon. “We started getting him the ball a little better, got him some more touches in the paint.”
Potts added 20 points for Webster, while Ramey finished with 14.
After being pestered by CBC fouls for the last six minutes of the game, the cast of starters finally subbed out with a minute left to an emotional ovation from the Webster faithful. The noise only increased as the final seconds ticked away with the ball in front of a Statesmen bench that could barely contain itself. The party had begun.
Webster will clash with three other star-studded programs at Mizzou next week. On Friday afternoon, the team will meet Kickapoo in the State semifinals. Springfield’s finest, the Chiefs have two future D-I players in Xavier commit Jared Ridder and Navy-bound Cameron Davis. The other semifinal features the defending champs in Chaminade as well Kansas City’s premier team, Lee’s Summit West.
“This has got a chance to be one of the stronger Final Fours Missouri has had,” Blossom said. “It could be an unbelievable Final Four.”
“Kickapoo is a good team. They’ve got their two D-I players, but we’ve also got two D-I players, so it should be a good game,” Potts said. “We’ve got to prepare hard. I think we’re going to get the win though.”
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