The first varsity boys basketball game on the new floor at Ladue High's Neilson Gymnasium proved a rousing success Thursday night for the home team, as the Rams, thanks to superior play-making on offense and a truly dynamite effort on defense, ran past Westminster Christian Academy, for a 67-54 victory.
"We went in with the mentality that we were really going to pressure the perimeter, and make them go off the dribble, and if they did shoot, we didn't want clean threes," Ladue head coach Chad Anderson said. "I think they did get a few too many clean threes from what we were really wanting, and they started the game hot, but they didn't shoot it real well throughout the game."
And with Westminster's cold shooting from outside, and a seeming reluctance to attack the paint with Ladue big men Austin DaGue (6'9) and Andrew Maddock (6'7) inside waiting, the Rams charged ahead early and never looked back in another sensational victory for the Ladue to start the season.
The Rams are now 5-1 this year, with their only loss coming in a one-point game in the finals of the Vianney Tournament. And earlier this week, Ladue moved ahead two slots, into the No. 8 spot in the area's Large School Top 20 poll.
"We've played well, but there are a lot of things we could do better," Anderson said. "But that's what's so great about this team, they really trust each other and play well together, and try to get better every day as a team."
The Rams will be hard-pressed to play better than they did on Thursday, as the outscored the highly-ranked Wildcats (No. 6 in this week's Small Schools poll) in every quarter and steadily increased their lead to as many as 17 points, before Anderson pulled his starters late in the fourth quarter.
Junior point guard Cornell Johnston had a game-high 21 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds to lead the Rams, while DaGue added 16 points and six rebounds, and backcourt mate Connor Spirtas had 10 points.
Spirtas also provided two of the highlight plays of the night, when he knocked down not one, but two buzzer-beating three-pointers at the end of the first and second quarters.
"Our big men carried us," Johnston said. "They finished around the basket, and I bet (DaGue and Maddock) had about 30 rebounds combined. They just carried us."
Actually, the Ladue big men only had 12 rebounds combined (six apiece). But Johnston's point is still the same, Westminster hardly got any second shots, but it was probably more a product of the entire Ladue team grabbing every rebound than it was simply DaGue and Maddock getting them all.
No matter who it was cleaning up the misses, the result was still the same -- Ladue's defense and rebounding was dynamite, and a huge key to why the Rams were able to control the game against a really good Westminster team.
Next up for the Rams, is a date at the Terrell Ramey/Midwest Showdown Shootout at Lindenwood University on Saturday.
Ladue will play Chatham (IL) Glenwood in one of the marquee games of the day, with the tip-off scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Glenwood, which boasts several potential college prospects on its roster, including leading scorer Peyton Allen and University of Illinois football recruit Daniel Helm, is 8-0 so far this year, and already owns a win this year over national powerhouse Farragut Academy of Chicago.
Westminster was led by senior guard Jack Dohr, who had 19 points, and senior forward JohnEric Steiner, who had 14 points.
Score by Quarters ........... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 -- Final Score
Westminster Christian ... 14 . 11 . 12 . 17 -- 54
Ladue ............................. 17 . 17 . 14 . 19 -- 67
Westminster Christian -- Jack Dohr 19, JohnEric Steiner 14, Shane Benes 10, Brendan Bognar 5, Andrew Cannon 3, Aaron Cook 3.
Ladue -- Cornell Johnston 21, Austin DaGue 16, Connor Spirtas 10, Jeremy Loftin 9, Andrew Maddock 7, Jon Collins 2, Adehkeem Brown 2.