Webster Defense Just Plain Tough Statesmen Put a 53-46 Clamp on West Plains for 1st State Title

Article excerpt

The Final Four basketball tournament is often called "The Dance."

On Saturday, Webster Groves' Statesmen waltzed away from the Hearnes Center in an emotion-propelled carriage reserved for champions.

Twenty-seven years have passed since the Statesmen played for the title. On Saturday, they won their first, beating West Plains 53-46 for the Class 4A championship. The Statesmen players and fans exulted.

Reserve guard Latrelle Yancey turned a double-somersault at midcourt.

This was a party - and Webster was throwing it.

"It's been a long time - 27 years now - and it's the ultimate," Webster coach Tim Moore said.

Webster's only other state final game was in 1969, when it lost to Sumner in the Class L (large-school) championship.

On Saturday, the Statesmen were in heaven.

"That dressing room is filled with a lot of kids with a lot of heart," Moore said.

And tenacity.

Webster (29-3) shut down West Plains' potent offense, which had averaged 81.2 points a game.

"What a great, great defensive job they did in that second half," Moore said. Webster outscored West Plains 24-16 in the second half, after falling behind 30-29 at halftime.

West Plains (29-3) hit only four of 15 shots from 3-point range and shot 33 percent from the floor overall.

Moore said the Statesmen defense has been "our story all year."

That and silky 6-foot-6 forward Johnnie Parker. He was dazzling, scoring a game-high 22 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and notching three steals and three assists.

Parker made two 3s in the first quarter, including the game-opening basket.

In fact, Parker tried to take charge of the celebration - he waved off a substitution with 13 seconds remaining. …

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