COLUMBIA — After Notre Dame beat Lincoln Park 67-57 in a Class 4 semifinal contest Friday, Bulldogs coach Paul Hale and his players found some empty seats at Mizzou Arena to watch the other semifinal matchup between St. Charles West and Webb City.
St. Charles West (30-1) posted a 62-53 win in overtime to advance to today's 2 p.m. Class 4 championship game against Notre Dame (23-6) at Mizzou Arena.
What did Hale learn about St. Charles West after watching it from the bleachers for four quarters, plus an overtime session?
"Well, St. Charles West just doesn't turn the ball over, they shoot extremely well and they handle the ball really well," Hale said. "They're a very tough team to play against. ... They've got three very good guards who are very well-skilled and they're just like coaches on the floor."
Notre Dame looks to earn a state title today after losing to Ruskin by three points in last winter's Class 4 championship game.
St. Charles West 5-foot-11 senior guard Kramer Soderberg leads the Warriors with an average of 24.7 points per game. The other two guards who Hale said his defense must concentrate on are 5-10 senior Brian Maurer and 6-0 junior Alex Bazzell.
Maurer averages 9.5 points per game, while Bazzell averages 12.5.
"[Soderberg] is a heck of a player," Hale said. "He's touted for player of the year in Missouri. He's playing hurt right now, but he's tough. He's soul heavy."
Soderberg has a hip and groin injury while Bazzell has a weak knee. Maurer is battling a hurt kneecap.
"They can all shoot," Notre Dame 6-8 senior Ryan Willen said. "They can all penetrate. ... It will be a lot like [Lincoln Prep]. They can all guard and all penetrate and it will be a really similar game to what we played today."
Hale expects a low-scoring championship game. He said the Warriors are not a fast-paced team, but instead take their time on offense and make the defense work.
"They are not going to shoot it very much," Hale said. "They're real deliberate and they'll make us play defense for a long time if they can. So it will be a real low-scoring game, I think. ... St. Charles West is the No. 1 ranked team in the state. And they are ranked that way for a purpose."
Hale said his team must improve on its shooting. The Bulldogs converted 19-of-44 field goal attempts (43.2 percent) against Lincoln Prep.
The Bulldogs' coach added that his team must continue to maintain its intense pressure on defense. The Bulldogs forced 12 turnovers Friday.
"We'll have to cause some problems tomorrow with the press, and we'll have to shoot the ball better than what we shot today," Hale said.
St. Charles West coach Terry Hollander said his team is in for a challenge, going against an experienced Bulldogs team.
"They have a lot of kids who can really play," Hollander said. "They shoot the ball well. Obviously Willen is a handful because he's such a good player. They played in the final game last year, and they pretty much have most of the same kids back, so there is no question that they are an awfully good team. Their record is obviously a little bit misleading. They played some games without Willen and one of their guards.
"They are a very formidable team. We've got to see if we can tape these guys up a little bit, stick them back together and come out and give it a whirl tomorrow."