Junior Nate Ruble and senior Michael Bollinger formed a hot scoring combination in the second half in leading St. Pius X over Grandview 52-33 in the first round of the seventh annual Bruce Thomas Tournament at Herculaneum on Friday.
The Lancers improved to 9-1, their only blemish all season a one-point loss at home to Hillsboro, 43-42, on Jan. 11. The Eagles dropped to 2-12.
When sophomore forward Levi Lalonde scored the first basket of the second half for Grandview, it cut the Lancers’ lead to 23-21.
Then Bollinger cranked out 10 points in a little over a minute at the end of the third quarter, and Ruble took over in the fourth with eight points. Ruble led all scorers with 15 while Bollinger finished with 11.
“We’re usually the kind of team that grinds it out,” St. Pius head coach Chris Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of athletes, but not a lot are basketball-first kids. But they sure do like to play and compete. They’re unselfish kids. I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“If you asked each player who our No. 1 scoring option is, they’d all say somebody different. That’s the kind of team they are. When Mikey cooled off, Nate took over and he got some good buckets too.”
The Lancers are the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Their entire front court stands 6-1 to 6-6. And height isn’t their only gift; some played football and have thick bodies that take up a lot of room in the paint. Senior forward Zander Parson (6-6) had nine points and 13 rebounds against Grandview. He had a season-high 16 boards against Valley Park last month.
When Grandview hosted St. Pius in a Jefferson County Activities Association small-schools matchup on Jan. 8, the Lancers shut out Grandview 7-0 in the fourth quarter and won 46-41.
After being outscored 15-7 in the first quarter of the rematch, the Eagles got back-to-back 3-point baskets by juniors Chase Wilson and John Grimm, who took aim from the top of the arc and banked it off the glass. Junior Clayton Riddle’s two free throws with 2:23 left in the first half cut the Lancer lead to 18-17. But Grandview never tied the game or took the lead. Sophomore guard-forward Dabrein Moss sank a trey and Ruble made the last basket of the third and St. Pius led 23-19.
“We wanted to have a better effort of closing out because they’ve got some really good shooters,” Miller said. “We had a good game plan for Wilson and how we wanted to defend him, but he still commands so much attention it takes away from our defensive philosophy. We did a good job of getting our hands up and contesting those 3-point shooters.”
Wilson led the Eagles with eight points. He’s the only member of his team averaging in double-digits in scoring with 18.5 points per game, but he’s been held to 10 or fewer in the last three games.
St. Pius junior guard Will Wieland guarded Wilson. Wieland scored six points to go with four rebounds and two assists.
“He’s more of a game manager,” Miller said of Wieland. “He’ll take his shots or try to make a play when he sees it, but he’s a pass-first type of kid. He’s tough as nails. He did a terrific job of harassing (Wilson) all night.”
Grandview’s first-year head coach, Terry Edwards, has used 18 players on the varsity this season. He wasn’t planning on suiting up that many, but six players were injured in a car wreck at the beginning of the season. All six missed several games and one isn’t scheduled to return until February. The Eagles had to quarantine in December because of COVID-19.
“We’re limited with depth. We’re playing kids who haven’t played a lot of varsity minutes,” Edwards said. “St. Pius is well coached. They find ways to win games. It seems like in a lot of our games we play well for a half or three quarters and then get worn down.
“We’re having trouble scoring points the last few games. Chase is very talented and we try to set screens for him, but when our shots don’t fall it’s difficult to stay in the game.”
Seventh annual Bruce Thomas Boys Basketball Tournament
Seeds: 1. St. Pius; 2. St. Louis Blue Knights; 3. Hancock; 4. Perryville; 5. Gateway Legacy; 6. Northwest; 7. Herculaneum; 8. Grandview
St. Pius 52, Grandview 33; Gateway Legacy 58, Perryville 32; Herculaneum 55, Blue Knights 41; Northwest 71, Hancock 62
St. Pius vs. Gateway; Herculaneum vs. Northwest; Grandview vs. Perryville; Blue Knights vs. Hancock
Seventh place, 4 p.m.; Consolation final, 5:30 p.m.; Third place, 7 p.m.; Championship, 8:30 p.m.