By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Jeff Williams looks at Webster Groves as a model for what he wants his Joplin Eagles basketball program to become.
And why not?
The Webster Groves Statesmen beat Joplin 51-26 in the championship game of the Kaminsky Classic on Saturday at Missouri Southern’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium. It was Webster Groves’ seventh Kaminsky title in its past eight trips to the tournament.
“They’ve got a state-power program, and our program will be there some day,” said Williams, who is in his fourth season as Joplin’s coach. “We’re working diligently at it. I like our coaches that we’ve hired this year, and I think this program is going to be like Webster Groves some day. That’s our goal, and I’m determined and feel confident that will happen.”
The Statesmen produced a dominant defensive performance throughout the tournament, limiting opponents to a total of 88 points (29.3 ppg) over three games.
That defensive intensity was evident in the championship game.
Junior guard Charlie Brown pulled Joplin within 14-9 with a 3-pointer at the 5:49 mark of the second quarter. Then, Webster Groves (8-4) took its defensive pressure to another level.
After Brown’s trey, the Statesmen kept Joplin (6-3) scoreless for the next four minutes. During that time, Webster Groves went on a 15-0 run behind a pair of 3-pointers from Sam Craig, another trey from Nick Delgado and six points from Alex Floresca. The Statesmen went on to take a 29-11 lead into halftime.
Joplin struggled to get into an offensive rhythm and made only 1 of 12 free throws for the game.
“I’m real proud of our kids and how hard we fought, but I guess we’re going to have work on our shooting more at practice,” Williams said.
“Hitting shots forgives a lot of sins, and it just wasn’t in the cards tonight for us to hit them.”
Brown led the Eagles with 17 points. The junior guard scored 12 of Joplin’s 15 points in the second half, but Webster Groves’ defense made it difficult for Brown to create opportunities for his teammates like he did in the Eagles’ first two tournament wins.
“We just wanted to make sure we contained (Brown) and forced him to shoot contested jump shots,” Webster Groves coach Jay Blossom said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of doing that.”
Craig led Webster Groves with 14 points, while Cameron Hilton added 12.
Joplin fell short of winning its first Kaminsky Classic since 2001, but the Eagles hope the competition will benefit them when they begin conference play Tuesday at Lebanon.
“The Ozark Conference is a good conference, so this should help us a lot,” Brown said.
Brown, who averaged 20.6 points over the three games, was named to the Kaminsky Classic All-Tournament Team for a third consecutive time. Joplin senior forward Adam St. Peter joined Brown on the tournament team.
Floresca and Michael Gulve represented Webster Grove. Tournament honors also went to Vashon senior guard Derrick Mitchell, Wichita Word of Life senior forward Donashae Henderson, Jefferson City senior forward Scott Stegeman and Francis Howell junior forward Nic Perkins.