From the moment he realized his team would be facing the No. 2 ranked team in all of St. Louis area basketball, in the championship game of the DC Wilcutt Tournament, Ladue High head coach Chad Anderson preached the same mantra over and over again.
"I told our kids (Thursday) at practice, and (Friday) before the game," said Anderson, "in order for us to win the big games, you've got to believe in yourself, number one. You've got to compete. And you've got to trust your teammates. And I think that is the difference in this team and the past teams we've had. These kids believe."
Well, that belief became reality late Friday night, as Ladue earned its biggest win -- possibly ever -- in a stunning 60-58 nail-biter over the No. 2-ranked Cadets.
"Wow, this is unbelievable," said Ladue junior Cornell Johnston, who was named Tournament MVP following the game. "We just had so many guys step up for us tonight. I'm just so proud of my teammates tonight. We all played with all our heart tonight."
It certainly took every bit of heart the Rams could muster to pull out the victory, as CBC led for most of the last half of the fourth quarter.
But Ladue just wouldn't be denied, as it rallied from a four-point deficit with less than two minutes left to win a highly-entertaining contest over the team that was ranked No. 1 in the area when the first preseason Top 20 poll was released back in November.
It wasn't until the final 16 seconds of the game that Ladue finally took control though.
Sophomore Jeremy Loftin drilled a three-pointer at the 16-second mark to give the Rams a 59-58 lead. Then teammate Connor Spirtas stepped in front of CBC star Jordan Barnett and took a charge with 12.1 seconds left that gave Ladue back possession of the ball with a chance to put the game away.
Senior Austin DaGue hit a free throw to give Ladue a 60-58 lead, but it wasn't until CBC junior Patrick McCaw's drilling layup attempt rolled off the rim at the buzzer that the Rams could finally celebrate their victory.
And what a celebration it was, as the entire Ladue cheering section (made up mostly of Ladue students) sprinted onto the court to join the Ram players for an absolutely bonkers display of hugs and high-fives that delayed the intended post-game trophy presentation for nearly 10 minutes.
"When I saw he missed, I just thought 'let's get out of here'," Johnston said. "It was crazy. Our fans were unbelievable all night. They always have our back. And when they rushed the court, it was... I can't describe it. Just awesome."
Ladue, which has also been ranked in the Top 10 all season, and came into Friday's matchup ranked No. 7 in the area, is now 12-3 on the year, with a current five-game winning streak to boot.
CBC fell to 12-4, and suffered its first loss since a defeat in the finals of the Meramec Holiday Invitational cost the Cadets their No. 1 ranking back in December.
Ladue won't get much time to enjoy its huge victory over CBC, as the Rams will be back in action on Monday, with a game against Wentzville Holt.
CBC also plays next on Monday, at home against Cardinal Ritter.
Score by Quarters ........... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 -- Final Score
Ladue ............................. 15 . 18 . 11 . 16 -- 60
CBC ............................... 19 . 12 . 13 . 14 -- 58
Ladue -- Andrew Maddock 20, Cornell Johnston 16, Austin DaGue 10, Jeremy Loftin 8, Connor Spirtas 3, Jordan Cosby 3.
CBC -- Zach Fischer 16, Patrick McCaw 14, Jordan Barnett 10, Beau Bommarito 6, Jordan Barnes 4, Aarion Maxie-Penton 4, Ray Doby 4.
DC WILCUTT TOURNAMENT ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Davis Soderberg -- Freshman, St. Charles West
Ryan Daugherty -- Junior, Ft. Zumwalt West
Justin Thomas -- Senior, Whitfield
Anthony Virdure -- Senior, Lutheran North
Chaz Glotta -- Junior, Ft. Zumwalt North
A.J. Joseph -- Senior, Clayton
Austin DaGue -- Senior, Ladue
Cornell Johnston -- Junior, Ladue -- TOURNAMENT MVP
Andrew Maddock -- Junior, Ladue
Patrick McCaw -- Junior, CBC
Jordan Barnett -- Junior, CBC