When local basketball preseason prognosticators voted the No. 1 team in the area before the start of the season, they likely had visions of the Spartans’ massive frontline of 6’8 Nolan Berry, 6’11 Eric Moeller, and 6’6 Alec Bausch wreaking havoc on opposing defenses all season long running through their heads.
After two early losses though, De Smet isn’t the top-ranked team in the area anymore, but on Thursday night, the Spartans’ big boy lineup did dominate the action against rival , in what proved to be an impressive 79-70 victory over the Red Devils.
“I thought there were definitely moments where we played our game,” De Smet head coach Kevin Poelker said. “To their credit, they did some really tough things defensively and they played with a lot of intensity that took us out of what we wanted to do. The upside to that though, was every time we lost our composure, we seemed to get it back.”
They did, especially in a brilliant fourth-quarter run, after Chaminade’s Andy Kleinlein had hit an open three-pointer to pull the Red Devils to within four points.
De Smet reeled off 16 of the game’s next 18 points, and pushed its lead to 69-51, almost before Chaminade could even catch its breath.
“That’s a great team that had a great performance tonight,” Chaminade head coach Kelvin Lee said. “I told our guys, ‘we’re right there, we’ve just got to keep looking at the big picture and just keep getting better.’
“Those guys could’ve folded up the tents tonight, but I have to give my guys credit, they didn’t quit and they kept playing.”
And despite the big deficit, they nearly played themselves back into the game, and answered De Smet’s big run with one of their own – a 16-4 spurt that pulled the Devils to within nine points with 2:15 left in the game.
“We made a run there at the end, and made it kind of interesting,” Lee said. “If they continue to do that and play like that all year, by the end of the year I think we’ll have something.”
De Smet’s Moeller, who finished the game with 21 points, had two emphatic dunks in the final two minutes that helped the Spartans keep the Devils at bay.
But it was Berry’s game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds that led the way for De Smet’s fourth-straight victory, and sixth overall on the season.
“To have not only one skilled big, but to have two, I feel pretty lucky,” Poelker said. “I thought they both did a nice job. They’re both willing to give up the ball. They can both score. And I thought they both just did a nice job of using their teammates and using each other too.”
Kleinlein and teammate Grant Hollander, who each had 16 points, were Chaminade’s top scorers, as the Devils fell to 2-5 on the season.
Both clubs will enjoy a couple of days off during the holiday break, but will be back in action with play in two of the area’s premier holiday tournaments, with De Smet playing in the Meramec Tournament (December 26-30), and Chaminade hosting its own event (December 27-30).
De Smet is the No. 4 seed at Meramec, and will begin tournament play on Monday, with a first-round game against Lindbergh, at 4 p.m.
Chaminade will begin round-robin play against Bayless at 5:30 p.m., on Wednesday, and then will play a 5:30 p.m. game on Thursday against Pattonville.