One good dunk deserves another.
Ram 6-foot-10 senior Will Childs-Klein had a dunk with two minutes to play to tie the game at 44-44 and send the Ladue faithful into a frenzy.
But Clayton's Christian Thomas used the old adage of whatever you can do, I can do better. The 6-foot-5 senior took a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Charlie Harned and had a dunk of his own moments later. That proved to be the game-winner in a big 49-44 Greyhound victory which put Clayton in the driver's seat in the Suburban East Conference.
"They had a dunk and I had to answer back," said Thomas, who had a game-high 24 points. "I've had a few dunks but this is the best, coming when it did in such a rivalry game. Charlie did a great job of finding me and it felt good to put it in."
Clatyon would open the door for the Rams by missing three front ends of one-and-ones in the final minute but Ladue, which shot the ball poorly from the outside the entire game, could not take advantage.
"This is just my fifth year here but I already know what an unbelievable rivalry this is," Clayton Coach Ryan Luhning said. "Both communities really get into it. There is a great atmosphere. That is why we played it at Washington U. this year and Fontbonne last season. This year it so happened that we both had good teams and we put on an entertaining show.
"Big Will had a huge dunk for them but Christian responded in a big way. In a game like this it comes down to big-time players making plays."
Ladue led for all but one possession of the first three quarters and had a lead of as many as six points in the second half.
But Thomas kept Clayton in the game with 13 of his team's 16 third quarter points.
Ladue led by a point going into the fourth quarter but Clayton scored the first seven points of the quarter. Childs-Klein, who had not scored since the first quarter, would hit three late field goals including the game-tying dunk and Malcolm Early had a huge 3-pointer. But the Rams did not score in the final two minutes.
"We gave them four transition baskets in the fourth quarter," Ladue Coach Chad Anderson said. "But I was happy with the defense overall. We held a team which is averaging 70 points a game to 49. But we really struggled offensively and didn't do the things we wanted to do. We didn't get the ball inside enough and took too many perimeter shots. It was a helluva game. It always is."
The loss was the second in a row for the Rams, who had their seven-game winning streak stopped by Rockwood Summit Wednesday night. Ladue dropped its first league game and is now 3-1 in the Suburban East and 13-8 overall.
Clayton, which shared the league title with Normandy last year, improved to 3-0 in the league and 18-6 overall. The Greyhounds can earn the outright league title with wins against Affton and Berkeley next week.