FREEBURG The Wesclin Warriors still had the sour taste of their loss to Central in their mouths when they arrived in Freeburg on Friday night.
But even after surrendering the Mississippi Conference championship on their home floor, the Warriors had enough fortitude to outlast Freeburg, 58-39.
"The loss against Central hurt and it still hurts that they got out of our gym with a win," said Wesclin coach Brent Brede. "Tonight, I think we played hard enough and executed enough. We weren't perfect by any means, but we were good enough to get the win."
Wesclin, 18-8, has three games left before kicking off play in a difficult Carlyle Regional, where it will have to square off against the likes of state-ranked Nashville, cross-town rival Mater Dei, and host Carlyle.
Freeburg, 11-13, has road games against Triad and Columbia before beginning play at the Mascoutah Regional.
Four players reached double figures for Wesclin, which also outrebounded Freeburg by 12 in the second half to secure Friday's victory. Senior Brendan Bernhardt led the way with 15 points. Jake Stephens scored 12 and Justin Goff and Jarad Steenbergen each scored 10.
"That's been who we are. We are a balanced group," Brede said. "In our first five games of the season, we had five different guys lead us in scoring. We do pride ourselves that we have a group of guys who can score."
Wesclin led 18-8 at the end of the first quarter and stretched the lead to 12 early in the second when Stephens scored on stick-back and drew a foul.
But Freeburg's Jacob Mueller kept the Midgets in it with eight second-quarter points, including a 3-point basket from about 26 feet out. Ross Keleher hit a 3 and Zach Diecker scored on a short jumper off the baseline to close the lead to 32-27.
Mueller had 14 points by halftime and ended up the game's high scorer with 19.
“We gave him a couple of open looks, but he earned what he got in the first half,” Brede said. “Mueller is very capable of carrying them, which he has before. Mike Thoele did a real nice job off the bench guarding him in the second half."
Wesclin held Mueller to just five second-half points. After surrending a basket to start the third quarter, the Warriors went on a14-2 run led by Bernhardt and Stephens, who scored two buckets apiece. In the meantime, the Warrior defense took control under the boards, outrebounding Freeburg by 12 in the second half.
Stephens made things difficult for the Midgets in the paint, Freeburg coach T.J. Hoover said.
"It was a physical game on both sides — not more one side than the other — and we just didn't respond," he said. "They got some second chances because of Stephens' efforts. That's when they started to pull away from us a little."
Thoele and Jared Timmermann each had four points for Wesclin.
For Freeburg, Diecker had six, Keleher had 4, Brennan Dermody had three, and Austin Munie, DJ Valleroy and Carter Bonta each scored two.