St. Francis would just not go away.
The Spartans' Andrew Harvey and Nick Kosmitotis combined to go 8 of 12 from distance to get St. Francis within 6 points early in the fourth quarter. But Willowbrook regrouped and went 12 of 16 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to pull away for a 71-55 victory at the Glenbard West Holiday Classic on Tuesday in Glen Ellyn.
Ethan Schuemer scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half and Matas Masys shot 5 of 6 from the arc on his way to 24 points as the Warriors improved to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the tournament.
"I did not see the ball much in the first half, and the guys started recognizing that in the second half and I started seeing the ball a lot more," said Schuemer, a 6-foot-6 St. Cloud State recruit.
"I knew it was a close game," he added. "I knew I had to get more involved. I had to be more demanding of the ball. That's what I tried to do in the second half."
Masys, who spent much of the second half on the bench after picking up three fouls, banged his fifth 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining in the fourth quarter to cap a 14-5 run and give the Warriors a 58-43 lead.
"That was one of my better games," Masys said. "It was a good game. My teammates were setting good screens to get me open and I was just hitting the shots."
St. Francis (3-10) cut an 11-point halftime deficit to 44-38 on a 3-pointer by Harvey, a 6-4 senior forward, who was 5 of 9 from distance to finish with a game-high 27 points.
"We needed to shoot a lot of 3s to make some runs," said St. Francis coach Erin Dwyer. "One thing we've been struggling with is balancing between shooting 3s and making sure we stay aggressive in getting to the basket.
"I was happy right before the half," he added. "I was saying to myself we'll be down by 8 points and the guy (Willowbrook's Cornelius Paxton Jr.) throws in a (27-foot) buzzer shot. (Willowbrook) is good. They're very talented."
Matthew Myers added 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists for Willowbrook, which faces Hoffman Estates on Wednesday (also 2-0 in pool play) at 6:15 p.m.
Kosmitotis had 9 points for St. Francis by making three 3-pointers without a miss before exiting with a leg injury midway through the second quarter.
"They were fundamentally sound," Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins said of St. Francis. "They do a good job. They're very disciplined. Every time we made a mistake they made us pay for it, so hat's off to them.
"I felt like every time we got the lead to double digits, the next thing you know they're back in it," he added. "Our effort was solid, except for those first couple of minutes of the third quarter. They got the momentum and we had to work to turn it back our way."