LEBANON — When College Prep of Madison from St. Louis switched to a high rate of speed midway through the first half Tuesday, it was the beginning of the end for the Nashville Hornets.
College Prep turned a 15-13 lead after one quarter into a 30-15 halftime advantage and reached the championship game of the Lebanon/BSN Sports Thanksgiving Tournament with a 59-37 victory over the Hornets.
"We felt if we could speed the game up it would work to our advantage," said College Prep coach Altonio Irons, the son of former Vashon High coach Floyd Irons. "When it was a two-point game we did a better job of kicking into gear and getting the game a little faster than they probably wanted it."
In a game played earlier Tuesday at the tournament, Wescling defeated Freeburg 63-58.
College Prep (3-0) will face either Madison or Columbia in the tourney championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Bears got 14 points from Division I prospect Kevin Baker and 12 from Southeast Missouri State recruit Martavian Payne.
Down 7-0 and 10-1 early, the Hornets (2-1) fought back and cut the Bears' lead to 15-13 after one quarter on a 3-pointer by Scott Brown.
However, Nashville fell right back into a scoring funk and the Bears outscored the Hornets 15-2 in the second quarter on the way to a 30-15 halftime lead.
"For a team like us this early in the year, you don't prepare for this ... that kind of athleticism and quickness," Nashville coach Brad Weathers said. "Hopefully we're better off for it down the road. That's the only way we can look at it right now."
The Hornets had trouble not only making shots, but getting them off without a hand in their face. Nashville was 14-of-41 from the floor (34 percent) and the Bears' superiod quickness and relentless pressure were the biggest reasons.
"When they changed defenses, it took us too long to adjust and get into where we needed to be," Weathers said. "That half-court trap caused us a lot of problems. Their pressure caused us problems all night, but especially against that."
Brown led Nashville with 13 points, eight of those coming in the first quarter. Hunter Beetley had seven while Chance Reuter and freshman Royce Newman each had six.
Irons said College Prep is a new school that includes many students and teachers from Imagine Prep, a school that closed after the previous school year.
He had been the head basketball coach there for three seasons.
"When the school closed they didn't really have anywhere to go, so they wanted to keep some of the teachers together and some of the students together," Irons said. "We've got some that were with me when we were at Imagine, then we've got a lot of new faces as well.
"We're trying to blend all these different things in together so it's a challenge, but it's a good challenge."
Wesclin 63, Freeburg 58
An 18-point Wesclin lead in the first half dwindled down to one midway through the fourth quarter, but the Warriors (1-2) held on to record their first victory.
Wesclin's Michael Klein scored eight of his team-leading 20 points in the fourth quarter and teammate Kyle Eversgerd sank his first five 3-point tries on the way to a 17-point outing.
Wesclin seemed headed for an easy win, up 30-12 in the second quarter and 40-24 at halftime. But the Midgets (0-3) hung close thanks to Dalton Crunk, who scored 16 of his team's 24 points in the first half and finished with 19 points.
Freeburg's 6-9 junior Justin Diecker spent much of the first half on the bench in early foul trouble, but shredded the Warriors inside for 19 of his 20 points in the second half.
Diecker's 10 points in the fourth quarter helped carve into the Wesclin lead. Freeburg guard Justin Livers hit a 3-pointer and then sank a shot that trimmed the deficit to one, but the Warriors had one more run in them.
Klein hit a three and then converted a 3-point play to push the lead back to seven and Wesclin held on.
Wesclin coach Andrew Wilson said when Freeburg switched to a zone defense, it presented an immediate problem since the Warriors hadn't seen much of that defense this early.
"I would like to think that's the reason why we struggled with it so much," Wilson said. "We were doing well and hitting shots and then they went to that zone and it slowed us down. We stopped being aggressive and that's what hurt us. You could just see the air come out of our lungs."
The Warriors were 8-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half and got 14 early points from Eversgerd, a big reason they led 40-24 at halftime.
They had five 3-pointers on seven attempts in the opening quarter.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at email@example.com or 239-2454.