Minute-by-Minute Through the District Tournament

Senior Fletcher Dietrich regains his balance in a Feb. 1 loss to Lindbergh, 66-54 (Jacob Lintner)

The following is a timeline of events that transpired at McCluer North High School on Saturday, Feb. 25. All events and statistics were witnessed and collected firsthand. All times are approximate.

9:47 a.m.: I arrive at McCluer North High School. After originally missing my turn because the school is tucked into the deepest recesses of Waterford Dr., I had to make an illegal U-turn to circle back toward the school.

9:51 a.m.: I take my seat on the “Visitors” side of gym with just 56 small, square fluorescent lights to bring brightness to the dark, cramped room.

9:58 a.m.: Just after the playing of the National Anthem, I notice that there are fewer than 40 people in the stands to watch the game below.

10:01 a.m.: Hannah Wilson wins the opening tip, but the ball goes directly into the hands of Hazelwood Central’s Erin Gill. A few passes later, Ukari McKinney commits a traveling violation to give FHN their first possession of the game.

10:13 a.m.: The Lady Knights put their first points on the scoreboard on a layup by Patty O’Leary. The score is now 6-2, HCHS leads.

10:19 a.m.: FHN calls their second timeout of the quarter. They trail 14-4 with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.

10:22 a.m.: HCHS center Kelsie Williams hits a shot from the low block at the buzzer to cap an 8-0 Hawks run to end the first quarter. The Lady Knights enter the second quarter down 22-5.

10:29 a.m.: With 4:20 remaining in the second quarter, the Hawks call their first timeout of the game, killing the Lady Knights’ momentum of an 8-2 run. The scoreboard now reads 29-13, HCHS still leads.

10:36 a.m.: One play sums up the entirety of the second quarter. FHN’s Maggie Hillman loses the ball driving to the rim. The Hawks run a fast break in which Gill and Jada Ferguson pass the ball back and forth before Gill puts up a layup in an open lane. She misses. McKinney gets the rebound and shoots again. She misses. Makaiah Douglas tracks down the long rebound. FHN would not score on the ensuing possession.

10:38 a.m.: The Lady Knights enter halftime trailing 31-16.

Sam Alexander defends a shot during a 58-41 win over FHC (Riley McCrackin)

“[During halftime] we just talked about our effort defensively,” head coach Jamal Thompson said. “We got a little better defensively, but we just couldn’t find our rhythm on offense.”

10:49 a.m.: Rascal Flatts’ “Life is a Highway” continues to play as Maddie Stock inbounds the ball to Douglas to begin the third quarter. There’s irony in there somewhere.

10:50-11:05 a.m.: Nothing eventful. The third quarter passes with nothing more than inefficient shooting from the Hawks and silence from the Lady Knights…

11:06 a.m.: until HCHS’ Nikayla Hill knocks down her third three-pointer of the game, this one coming to beat the buzzer and give the Hawks a 49-20 lead headed into the fourth quarter.

11:09 a.m.: The two teams return to the floor. One team looks like their planning for their next game; the other looks like they trail by 29 points.

11:14 a.m.: FHN continues to not communicate on the floor. They seem as ready as the Hawks to end their season.

11:15 a.m.: Erin Gill makes the Hawks’ only field goal of the fourth quarter.

11:25 a.m.: The final buzzer sounds. HCHS advances to play McCluer North the following Monday. The final score, a 55-33 Lady Knights loss.

11:26 a.m.: The pain of yet another losing season sets in. Since the 2001-02 season, the Lady Knights have only had two winning seasons, 2005-06 and 2015-16, which was a 13-12 season carried by Austine Pauley’s 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, all team highs.

“If [our underclassmen] are able to stick together and continue to get better over the summer, then we should have a much better season next year,” Thompson said. “It’s just growth, an opportunity for us to keep growing as a program and as a family.”

11:30 a.m.: The FHN boys team begins their pre-game warmups.

11:45 a.m.: The Knights tip off against the Hazelwood West Wildcats. The game begins (miraculously) on time.

11:46 a.m.: The following realization hits me: out of all of the Knights’ games this season, this is the only contest in which they win the size matchup. HWHS’ starting lineup’s average height was 69.4in (approx. 5’9”), while the FHN’s starters checked in with an average of 72.6in (approx. 6’1”).

11:47 a.m.: Wait. How tall is their point guard?

11:48 a.m.: After some quick research (looking at the given roster), I notice that the Wildcats’ point guard is five feet tall. And he’s the player guarding FHN’s Justin Mathews-Williams (6’2”).

11:53 a.m.: The Wildcats call their first timeout of the game. They trail 5-0, but I am still focused on their point guard. HWHS is also starting a 5’5” sophomore, but his only other remarkable quality is his Iman Shumpert-esque hair and three pointer.

11:56 a.m.: Tony McClellon of HWHS hits a layup in a wide-open lane to finally put the Wildcats on the scoreboard with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter.

11:59 a.m.: The first quarter ends with the Knights leading 12-2. Mathews-Williams has scored eight points.

12:02 p.m.: FHN calls their first timeout. Their lead has been cut to 12-7 just 40 seconds into the second quarter.

12:03 p.m.: HWHS has switched the 6’3” McClellon to guarding Mathews-Williams, making for a more even matchup as far as size goes.

12:12 p.m.: The Knights call their second timeout. They trail now 15-12 after a 13-0 Wildcat run to begin the second quarter.

Maurice Massey awaits a rebound during a loss to Lindbergh on Feb. 1 (Jacob Lintner)

12:12 p.m.: Sophomore John Garrelts sees his first action in any game that I’ve seen. Backup center Maurice Massey (6’4”) is out with flu-like symptoms, so the 6’4” Garrelts steps onto the floor in his place.

“Maurice was sick,” head coach Darrell Davis said, “and he was one that we were counting on to guard some of those [bigger] guys. I thought Evan Gallagher, Fletcher [Dietrich] and Charles [Brooks] did a great job guarding some people, but in the second and third quarters, they got a lot of second and third shots that really hurt us.”

12:16 p.m.: At halftime, the scoreboard reads 22-16 in favor of the Wildcats. They outscored the Knights 20-4 in the second quarter.

12:20 p.m.: The Wildcats return from the locker room after halftime.

12:23 p.m.: The Knights finally emerge from the locker room.

“I told them, ‘six points in this game is nothing,’” Davis said. “You just have to go out there and win the first four minutes.”

12:39 p.m.: A quick, back-and-forth third quarter passes with no timeouts called and with FHN now trailing just 38-36. The Knights, to this point in the game, are shooting 4/6 from beyond the three-point arc, 2/3 in the third quarter alone.

12:41 p.m.: FHN ties the game at 38. They would never take the lead.

12:46 p.m.: The Knights call a timeout with 5:01 to play. They trail 46-41.

12:49 p.m.: The Wildcats call a timeout. They lead 49-45 with 2:49 remaining in the game. FHN has just completed a 6-0 run to bring them back in contention.

12:54 p.m.: FHN senior Fletcher Dietrich fouls out. He finishes his final game as a member of the Knights 55 seconds early and with just four points scored. His team trails 51-47.

12:55 p.m.: The Knights call their final timeout. A quick two points from Charles Brooks has brought FHN within two. 51-49, 46 seconds remaining.

12:56 p.m.: Tony McClellon makes two free throws after an intentional foul. 53-49.

12:58 p.m.: A breakaway layup and-one from HWHS senior Christopher Walton adds three more to the Wildcats’ lead. 56-49.

1:01 p.m.: Drew Killmer, Justin Mathews-Williams and Tucker Rhoads all miss three pointers in the final minute of the game. The only saving grace is a JMW free throw to give him 20 points on the day, leading his team in scoring by a wide margin.

1:02 p.m.: The final buzzer sounds, and the scoreboard reads 58-50 in favor of the HWHS Wildcats, finishing the Knights’ season with a record of five wins and 19 losses.

Drew Killmer corrals a lose ball with Tucker Rhoads in the foreground in a Feb. 10 loss to FHHS, 77-36

1:05 p.m.: Coaches Darrell Davis (FHN) and Charles Harris (HWHS) shake hands at mid court with a small tap on the back to emphasize the handshake.

1:07 p.m.: Davis begins his talk with his team in the locker room. Emotions start to hit the players, especially the seniors.

1:11 p.m.: The last two players, Dietrich and Killmer, get set to leave the locker room, but not before each stopping to say goodbye to their coach.

1:11 p.m.: Dietrich: “Thanks for the season, Coach.” He continues to wipe away tears after embracing his mentor of four years.

1:12 p.m.: Killmer: “I’ll be back next season.”

1:12 p.m.: Davis: “I know. Rest of the day won’t be too easy.”

1:12 p.m.: Killmer: laughs for a second to himself, then replies, “Rest of the week.”
1:13 p.m.: Killmer leaves the locker room, heads up the winding stairs and enters the same small, squat gym that had just moments before broken his heart. He walks through the dark gym that is now only lit by the small windows bookending each side of the two sets of bleachers. Slowly, quietly, he walks the length of the court, passing by both sets of chairs that were about to be put away by the McCluer North custodial crew. He meets his father just before reaching the doors that separate the gymnasium from the foyer. Only 20 steps later, passing the two support columns with peeling blue paint that decorate the entryway, the soon-to-be senior pushes through the exterior doors – out of McCluer North High School, out of the basketball season and, silently, with his father’s comforting arm around his shoulders, into the mid afternoon sunlight.

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