For a half, the Triad Knights were able to keep Riverview Gardens’ high-scoring senior Zeke Moore in check.
But it was what he did in the third quarter which made the difference in the Rams’ 68-56 victory in Saturday’s championship game of the Triad Mid-Season Classic.
Coming into the game averaging 22 points per game, Triad held Moore, a 6-foot-7 swingman, to a single basket in a first two quarters which saw the Knights go into the break down 31-24, but still very much in the game.
But Moore came alive for 12 points in the third period, much of it a 15-2 run which closed the frame and put Riverview Gardens in front 51-37 going into the final period.
“We really did a good job on him in the first half and I thought, for the most part, also in the second half,” said Triad coach Sam Drake. “It just came down to the fact he was not going to pass the ball in the second half.
“That forced us to do some things defensively in the second half we did not want to do and the more we had to stretch the floor, the better it was for them.”
Riverview Gardens coach Gerard Moore had no trouble watching his son take the game over. Zeke Moore hit five of his nine shot attempts in that third period, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Sometimes, Zeke has the tendency to play to the level of the competition,” said Moore. “So I think it was a case of me being a dad and telling him it was time for him to start playing the way he is capable. And when he started playing better, that seemed to carry over to the entire time.”
A Beau Barbour basket with 4:42 remaining would draw Triad within 57-47 with 4:42 left in the final quarter. But a dunk from Moore at the other end followed by a Jason Drags basket in transition quickly put the Rams back up by 14.
Their lead would not slip under 12 points the rest of the way.
“That was a pretty tough to road for us to hoe tonight,” said Drake. “That was a pretty skilled and athletic team we were going up against and we played pretty well. This is something that can be a building block for us down the road.”
With 6-9 Drags scoring six early points, including the first of his four dunks of the game, Riverview Gardens bolted to a quick 14-5 lead only to have Triad pull within 16-15 by period’s end. Ethan Salopek and Brendan Gregg drained 3s for the Knights to fuel the late first-period rally.
A 3-pointer from Drags with 38 seconds left in the first half was one of three second-quarter treys for the Rams, who went into halftime leading 31-24.
Jason Drags led all scorers with 20 points, while Moore finished with 17 for the Rams (7-6). Barnett had 10 points.
Barbour’s 13 points paced Triad (8-10). Gregg and Noah Moss both finished with 12 points apiece.
Marion 57, Highland 49
Tied at 40, the Wildcats went on an 8-2 run in the fourth quarter to take command and went on to defeat the Bulldogs for third place.
Marion’s Jacob Schmid snapped the 40-all deadlock when he scored downlow. Justin Saddoris followed with a conventional three-point play making it 45-40. After a pair of free throws by Highland’s Justin Twyford, the Wildcats’ Justin Saddoris followed with a 3-pointer to put his team up by six.
A 3 from Highland’s Austin Elledge would make it 50-47 with 1:30 remaining, but that would be as close as the Bulldogs would get.
Marion sharp-shooting junior guard Justin Shadowens topped all scorers with 25 points. Adam Newman added 10 for the Wildcats (6-9).
Elledge’s 14 points topped Highland (10-10). Brode Portell added 10 for the Bulldogs, who trailled 17-7 after a quarter, but managed to be back within 26-22 by halftime.
Granite City 87 , Gateway STEM 38
Juniors Kenny Berry and Tra’Ron Allen combined for 25 first-quarter points to propel the Warriors to a one-sided win in the fifth-place game.
Back in action for just the second time after sitting out three games with a knee injury, Berry tallied 13 points in the opening frame and Allen knocked down 12 as the Warriors streaked to a 27-5 lead.
It was never close after that, as Granite City (9-10) coasted to a win that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Allen finished with a game-high 23 points, while Berry was right behind him with 22. Junior Ron Allen added 18 points for the Warriors.
Miguel Pillow-Smiley had 14 points to top Gateway STEM (1-11).
Paced by Allen’s early enslaught, the Warriors owned a 27-5 advantage by the end of the opening period and rolled on to a win that snapped a five-game losing streak.
From the title game, Triad’s Moss was named to the all-tournament team along with Riverview Gardens’ Ward and Drags.
Also named to the squad were Marion’s Shadowens, Highland’s Elledge and Tra’Ron Moss of Granite City.