The Waynesville High School boys’ basketball team is returning to the championship game of the US Bank/Rolla High School Holiday Invitational for the third straight season.


The Waynesville High School boys’ basketball team is returning to the championship game of the US Bank/Rolla High School Holiday Invitational for the third straight season.
The Tigers will be facing a different opponent this time, however.
Waynesville is to meet Westbury Christian of Houston, Texas today in the tournament championship game.
The two teams advanced by posting semifinal victories Tuesday night. In the semifinals Waynesville rolled over Festus 74-48 while -- in the game of the tournament thus far -- the Westbury Christian Wildcats held off Rogers, Ark. in a defensive showdown 35-30.
In consolation games on Tuesday Washington defeated host Rolla 61-51 and St. Joseph Benton knocked off Salem 51-37.
In today’s action Rolla plays Salem at noon in the seventh-place game; Washington takes on Benton at 1:30 p.m. in the fifth-place game; Rogers faces Festus at 3 p.m. in the third-place game, and Waynesville collides with Westbury at 4:30 p.m. in the championship game.
It will be the third consecutive trip to the tourney finals for Waynesville. The previous two years the Tigers have faced Rogers in the title game. Rogers topped Waynesville 53-52 in double-overtime last year and Waynesville won 54-48 two years ago.
Rogers was attempting to reach the US Holiday Invitational championship game for the fourth consecutive year. Tuesday’s loss was the first of this season for the Rogers Mountaineers, now 11-1.
Westbury enters today’s finals with a 16-4 mark.
Semifinals
Waynesville 74, Festus 48
Waynesville broke open a close game by outscoring Festus 44-23 in the second half.
Festus rattled Waynesville in the first period by taking an 18-12 advantage into the second quarter. However, Waynesville chipped away in the second half and ended up outscoring Festus 18-7 in the period to take a 30-25 halftime edge.
It was all Waynesville in the second half. Senior guard Keith Dupont and 6-3 junior forward Kevin Vereen each fired in nine points in the second half to power the winners.
Waynesville outscored Festus 19-8 in the third period and 25-15 in the fourth quarter.
Four players scored in double figures for Waynesville, led by 15 points from 6-3 senior guard B.J. Ray, 13 points by Vereen, 11 points by 6-4 senior guard Kelsey Bardell and 10 points by 6-2 senior guard Kendall Lewis.
Cody Roberts, a 6-3 junior, fired in 16 points and 6-0 junior Logan Bone added 11 for Festus.
Westbury 35, Rogers 30
The game was a  low-scoring, nail-biter throughout, as the squads battled to a near-standoff.
Rogers led 9-6 after the first period but the Wildcats tied the game 19-19 at halftime. The two teams headed into the final period tied 27-27.
Westbury’s Anthony Collins hit a driving layup with 5:00 left to give the Wildcats a 31-29 lead.
Neither team would score again until Westbury got possession with 2:40 left and went into a delay game. Through three timeouts and a couple of fouls Westbury worked more than a minute off the clock before Rogers fouled 6-6 senior Kevin Perry with 1:28 remaining. Perry missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw and Rogers took possession.
Rogers worked the ball to their top player, 6-7 senior forward Aaron Hawley, who has been the MVP of the tourney the past two years.
Hawley was fouled with 1:12 left. He missed the first attempt and made the second, cutting the Rogers deficit to one, 31-30.
The Mountaineers applied full-court defensive pressure, but a full-court pass off the inbound play resulted in a layup by Westbury’s Justin Foreman, making it a three-point game.
With :39 remaining Hawley fired up a three-pointer, which was off the mark and Westbury rebounded. The Wildcats again found an open man behind the Rogers defense and Cody Glenn went in for a layup to seal the win.
Perry led Westbury with 11 points while Hawley netted 18 for Rogers.
Consolation
Washington 61, Rolla 51
The host Bulldogs fell behind early and couldn’t recover, falling to the Washington Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays, now 4-4, scored the game’s opening field goal and led the rest of the way.
It was a one-point game at the 3:01 mark of the first period after RHS 6-4 junior forward Brendon Dowdy hit two free throws. However, Washington went on a 9-0 run to end the quarter. And a put-back by Blue Jay 6-0 junior guard Aaron Spurgeon with :01 left gave Washington a 16-6 edge entering the second quarter.
Rolla trailed by double figures most of the way over the final three periods. A layup by 6-3 junior forward Justin Hinni at the 4:48 mark of the second period gave the Jays a 24-8 edge.
A conventional three-point play by 6-8 senior center Kalen Brady at the 1:56 mark followed by a Brady three-point jumper 54 seconds later helped RHS cut its deficit to nine. However, Hinni grabbed an offensive board and put it back in with two seconds left in the half to give Washington a 29-18 advantage at intermission.
Senior forward Ben Stickler lit a fire for RHS when he hit a driving layup and nailed a trey off the right baseline for back-to-back field goals, cutting the Washington lead to eight -- 31-23 -- two minutes into the second half.
However, the Jays tallied the next six points and kept a double-figure lead the rest of the way. And a 10-footer by Spurgeon to end the third quarter upped the Washington advantage to 17 points, 45-28, entering the fourth quarter.
A pair of free throws by Washington sophomore guard Nick Eaton with 1:16 remaining gave the Blue Jays their largest advantage of the game, 60-41.
Rolla, now 2-5, outscored Washington 10-1 in the final minute of play but couldn’t close the gap any lower than 10 points.
Stickler was the only Bulldog to score in double figures, with 11 points. Senior guard Chris Bowe grabbed five rebounds and Brady blocked three shots for RHS.
Skyler Suggs, a 6-4 forward, tallied 18 points while Spurgeon added 12 and Eaton 10 for Washington.

Benton 51, Salem 37
For the second straight night the Salem Tigers struggled for points, as the Benton Cardinals jumped out to a 14-6 lead after the first period.
Another six-point quarter followed for Salem in the second period as Benton took a 23-12 halftime edge.
Salem simply couldn’t score enough to mount a second-half comeback attempt. It was 35-20 entering the fourth period.
C.J. Smith, a 6-1 senior guard, had 10 points to lead Salem, now 3-5. Kyle Ferguson, a 5-10 senior guard, netted 17 points to pace Benton, now 2-6.