With a week off from game action, leaving them nothing to do but practice and stew over last weekend's three-point loss at the Terrell Ramey/Midwest Showdown Shootout, Ladue High boys basketball coach Chad Anderson wasn't real sure how his Rams would respond to being named the No. 1 seed at this year's MICDS Holiday Invitational Tournament.
In Anderson's recollection, this is the first time Ladue has earned top billing at any tournament or multi-game showcase, and the coach just wasn't sure how his crew would handle it.
"You just never know how 16- and 17-year old kids are going to handle these kinds of accolades or pressure," Anderson said. "Every kid is different. So you never really know until you step on the court."
As it turned out, Anderson's concern wasn't really warranted, as the tournament top seed Rams looked every bit like the best team in the MICDS event this year, by dismantling Francis Howell, 58-39.
"It was a good way to start," Anderson said. "I thought we played well. We got to play a lot of guys, and I felt like everybody contributed."
Especially on the defensive end, where Ladue kept running in different players but still managed to stifle Francis Howell's offense for most of the night.
The Rams held Howell, which is winless on the season, but came into Saturday averaging 52 points a game, to just 39 points on Saturday -- more than half of which came for the Vikings late in the second half, after the outcome had pretty much been decided.
"We hang our hat on our defense," Anderson said. "That's something we've stressed since Day 1."
Offensively, Ladue was led by its 'Big Three' of guard Cornell Johnston and forwards Austin DaGue and Andrew Maddock, who combined to outscore Howell by themselves.
Johnston and DaGue each had 15 points, and Maddock had 11, giving the trio 41 combined points to Howell's 39.
Howelll sophomore Sam Hefner led all scorers with 17 points, but it wasn't nearly enough to overcome the total team effort by Ladue.
Howell (0-7) will play Clayton in the tournament consolation round on Thursday, at MICDS at noon.
Ladue will play fellow first-round winner St. Charles in the tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, December 26.
That day, MICDS will host four boys quarterfinal games and two girls semifinal games, which will lead up to championship night next Saturday, December 29.
The Ladue-St. Charles game will tip off at noon on Wednesday.
Score by Quarters ........... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 -- Final Score
Francis Howell ................. 9 ... 7 .. 13 ... 9 -- 39
Ladue ............................. 11 . 19 . 17 . 11 -- 58
Francis Howell -- Sam Hefner 17, Nic Perkins 15, Michael Timmerman 6, Jo Koehler 1.
Ladue -- Cornell Johnston 15, Austin DaGue 15, Andrew Maddock 11, Connor Spirtas 8, Adehkeem Brown 4, Jeremy Loftin 3, Matthew Hooper 2.