LEBANON — Already missing their top two starters because of injury, the Wesclin Warriors also trailed by 11 early in the second half Tuesday at the Lebanon/BSN Sports Thanksgiving Tournament.
Not much sunshine in that scenario.
But instead of fading away, the Warriors heated up at the free-throw line and 3-point range as they rode a furious comeback to stun Lebanon 63-59.
Wesclin sophomore Jarad Steenbergen scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in second half, nailing three straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help fuel the comeback.
The second-half hot streak was a trend picked up on by his teammates. Warriors senior Alex Smith had 11 of his 17 points in the second half and sophomore Jared Timmermann contributed 11 of his 14 points after halftime.
"We're starting five guards, so the only game plan I've got is to get these kids in shape and run the floor," Wesclin coach Andrew Wilson said after his team won its first game after two defeats. "That's what we did. We do a lot of work behind the scenes and in that fourth quarter it paid off."
It hasn't been a great start to the season for Wesclin.
Last season's leading scorer, senior guard Michael Klein, is out for an indefinite period with a fractured ankle. Another top scorer, Kyle Eversgerd, is coming off of a knee injury.
Three other seniors decided not to play this season.
As the lone senior starter, Smith was impressed by the sophomores on the floor and his team's gritty demeanor.
"We had some injuries early on, two of our starters who have been here for a long time," Smith said. "We have a couple younger guys really stepping up; our game is just to work hard and try to outrun the other team.
"We're a really young team, we just have to work hard. We've got something to prove this year."
The game was played at a frenetic pace that hearkened back to the wild showdowns between the Cahokia Conference rivals back in the 1980s and 1990s.
"That's the kind of game we want to play," Wilson said of the up-and-down sprint. "I didn't have any problem, I liked the pace and we were getting up and down the floor."
Lebanon (0-3) led 33-26 at halftime and seemingly had things under control with a 41-30 lead early in the third quarter.
Wesclin slowly began cutting into the lead and trailed 47-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by Steenbergen cut Lebanon's lead to 49-46 and another by Timmermann tied it. After Lebanon's Shayne Price drained a 3-pointer, Steenbergen answered with another three and then Price answered back with another one.
Wesclin hung close and took the lead on Steenbergen's third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter. The Warriors did not trail again, although the Greyhounds had chances to tie or take the lead.
"He's tough; he makes a lot of those in practice," Wilson said. "He's only going to get better."
Smith hit one of two foul shots with 53.1 seconds remaining to give Wesclin a 59-57 lead. Lebanon's Paul Pilackas missed a 3-point try and Tywansley Lashley missed inside.
Timmermann added two more free throws to push the lead to four and the Greyhounds missed another 3-point shot as Wesclin held on.
"It's definitely a momentum booster and gives us some confidence going into the weekend," Smith said. "Hopefully we can come out Saturday with a win."
This is the first season as Lebanon's boys head coach for Doug Schieppe, the former Greyhounds standout guard who previously coached the school's girls basketball team.
Lebanon got 15 points from Taylor Schmitt and 12 each from Lashley and Shayne Price.
The tournament continues Wednesday with Freeburg taking on Southwestern at 6:30 p.m., followed by Nashville (2-0) playing Madison (2-0) for the Pool A championship at 8 p.m.
Nashville was tied for first in the Associated Press Class 2A preseason state rankings and Madison was in Class 1A.
College Prep 53, Columbia 28
College Prep from St. Louis easily won its pool by hammering the Columbia Eagles for its third straight tourney win. The Bears (3-0) got 17 points from Arlando Cook while Columbia (2-1) got nine points from Korbin Farmer.
Playing without injured senior starter Cole Foster because of a leg injury, Columbia trailed 12-6 after one quarter and 25-7 at halftime.