BREESE — Top-seeded Briarcrest wanted no part of continuing 10th-seeded Mascoutah's Cinderella story at the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament.
After watching Mascoutah win three straight to open the tourney, Briarcrest, from Memphis, Tenn., held off the Indians' second-half comeback Friday and emerged with a 47-40 victory.
Briarcrest (14-3) went unbeaten in pool play, finishing off pesky Okawville 60-51 in the late game Friday night to reach the tourney championship.
Mascoutah (5-8) fell behind 11-0 early, but slapped a swarming box-and-one zone defense on the Saints that limited 6-foot-9 University of Memphis recruit Austin Nichols to just five shots and seven points.
The Saints had to look elsewhere with Nichols bottled up inside and they got 10 points apiece from freshman Mark French and sophomore Adam Pike to remain unbeaten in Pool A.
"We're used to seeing that," Briarcrest coach John Harrington said of defenses designed to help slow down Nichols. "We just don't want to come down and shoot it early, we've got good shooters and they're not scared to shoot. If you're open on the first pass, you're going to be open on the 15th pass, that's sort of our slogan."
A large crowd turned out for the game, in part because of Mascoutah's impressive victories and also to watch Nichols.
Mascoutah trailed 11-0, 14-2 and 21-10 in the first half before riding an 11-1 run spurred by two 3-pointers from Tim Parks. That cut the deficit to six points and Mascoutah was down 23-15 at halftime.
"As far as our game plan we executed pretty well," Mascoutah coach Cody Reynolds said. "I think a lot of teams that face them are going to say 'hey, make somebody else beat you other than him.' They hit some big shots down the stretch and we didn't shoot as well as we have the last couple days.
"It's been a great week over here so far, there's no shame in losing to that team."
Seven of Briarcrest's 14 field goals were 3-pointers, but they also hoisted 23 shots from beyond the arc. As a result, Mascoutah was able to remain in the game even after falling behind by 13 late in the third quarter.
A quick basket and follow-up dunk by Marshall Moore gave the Indians new life. They cut Briarcrest's lead to 38-34 on a three-point play by point guard Alex Oltmann with 2 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.
Nichols pushed the Saints' lead to six, but another 3-pointer by Parks cut the lead to 40-37. Briarcrest nailed all six of its free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to hang on.
"With a good team like that you don't have much room for mistakes," Reynolds said. "We got behind against Highland last night and against Okawville the night before. But against a team that's as disciplined as that with a weapon like Nichols, you can't get in a hole like that early and expect to come back and win."
Getting production from other players besides Nichols made the difference.
"We came out and made a few shots early and that helped us a little bit," Harrington said. "To their credit they stayed in their zone and their box-an-one the whole night."
While Harrington said it may have looked like Nichols was frustrated, it's nothing the Saints' big man hasn't seen before.
"He's fine. He understands," Harrington said. "It's a good win, he's excited for the kids. It's frustrating for the team, but it's what you've got to do sometimes."
Briarcrest 60, Okawville 51
Okawville crept to within three points of Briarcrest on a shot by Jacob Brammeier with 1:05 remaining, but the Rockets couldn't cut the deficit any further and lost their second game in pool play. Okawville got 22 points from Jeremy Weeke and Brammeier had 15.
Highland 60, Carlyle 52
Junior guard Aaron Elledge hit all five of his shots and eight of nine free throws, finishing with 18 points to help lead Highland (10-5) past Carlyle.
Elledge's accuracy mirrored that of his teammates, who sank a whopping 75 percent of their two-point field goal tries (18-for-24).
Highland's Joe Duncan added 17 points and Mitch Carriger contributed 11 as the Bulldogs held off Carlyle's assault from the 3-point line.
Carlyle's Cody Huels fired in six of his team's 10 pointers and led all scorers with 20 points. The Indians (6-6), who also got 12 points from Logan Zachry, were 10-for-31 from beyond the arc.
Nashville 38, Julian 26
Nashville (9-4) helped limit Chicago Julian to 27.8 percent shooting (10-for-36) and the Hornets got just enough offense to post the victory. Hunter Beetley had nine points for Nashville and Scott Brown had eight, while Deandre Bates led Julian (2-6) with eight points.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at email@example.com or 239-2454.