One of the most beloved basketball Bears of all time is back in Springfield for the weekend.
This time Blake Ahearn is a coach, and no longer a player.
Ahearn was a four-year starter from 2003-2007 during Barry Hinson’s time coaching the Bears. Ahearn finished his career No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list. He is No. 1 in school history with 276 made 3-pointers and an inductee to the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Ahearn’s DeSmet Spartans defeated Parkview 65-62 Thursday night in the opening round of the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Classic at Parkview High School. DeSmet led by 11 points at the start of the fourth quarter, but had to stave off a late comeback effort from the Vikings.
“If they’re all like this, I don’t know how long I can do it,” Ahearn quipped.
While Parkview tested the second-year head coach’s nerves, Ahearn said he was happy to travel from St. Louis to Springfield to visit some familiar friends.
“To be back in Springfield—every time I come back here—this place has meant so much to me, not just Missouri State, but the people I see. They’re my family. Whenever you get to come back and see family, it’s always a good thing,” Ahearn said.
Ahearn led all of Division I in free-throw percentage in each of his first three seasons and set school, Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA single-season and career records for free-throw percentage that still stands.
After graduation, Ahearn had an eight-year professional career that included stints with the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz. He appeared in a total of 22 NBA games. He also played in the NBA D-League, where he was MVP of the 2009 D-League All-Star Game. Ahearn also played overseas in Spain, Italy, Ukraine, China and Puerto Rico.
In his first season as a high school coach, Ahearn steered Clayton to an 8-17 record. When the job at DeSmet, Ahearn’s alma mater, opened, he took his basketball knowledge home.
“Basketball has been my life, and I’ve always been around it. The biggest thing for me was so many people helped me out, I want to be able to come back, and to be able to do it at your alma mater is even more special,” Ahearn said.
Sean Skoff scored 17 points to lead DeSmet against Parkview. The Vikings got 21 points from J.T. Brown, 17 points from Lencorya Grady and 13 points from freshman guard Dontae Taylor.
Touted Bradley-commit Ryan Stipanovich left the game with 12 points for DeSmet upon suffering a facial laceration in the third quarter. He did not return, but DeSmet still held off a late charge from the Vikings.
“For not having Ryan and another starter for pretty much the entire second half, they did a lot of good things, they did a lot of bad things,” Ahearn said. “A lot of that is credited to (Parkview coach) Landon (Cornish) and his team, I mean they did a good job forcing us to do stuff that we didn’t want.”
Parkview will play Central in the Hall of Fame Classic’s consolation semifinals at 5:30 p.m. at Parkview. DeSmet will play Lafayette (Wildwood) at 7 p.m. in the championship semifinals.
Missouri State went a 22-9 and 22-11 in Ahearn’s junior and senior seasons under coach Barry Hinson. The Bears played in the NIT in two of Ahearn’s years with the team and reached the quarterfinals in 2006.
Ahearn is married to his high school sweetheart and they have three daughters, all younger than age 4. Ahearn goes home to a household full of girls each night.
“I’m the boss here, but when I go home, I’m down on the totem pole,” Ahearn joked.
DeSmet 65, Parkview 62
DeSmet—Sean Skoff 16, Ryan Stipanovich 12, Brooks Ford 12, Josiah Tynes 7, Clayton Stephens 7, Evan Asleson 6, Joey Bender 4, Michael Dunn 1
Parkview—J.T. Brown 21, Lencorya Grady 17, Dontae Taylor 13, Damarcus Mason 5, Brady Hill 3, Gage Clark 3.
3rd Annual MBCA Hall of Fame Classic schedule
All games at Parkview High School.
Lafayette (Wildwood) 68, Central 63
Raytown 69, Hillcrest 47
DeSmet 65, Parkview 62
Nixa, Lafayette (St. Joseph)
Second round (Friday, Dec. 2)
4 p.m. consolation semifinal: Parkivew vs. Central
5:30 p.m. consolation semifinal: Hillcrest vs. St. Joseph Lafayette
7 p.m. championship semifinal: DeSmet vs. Lafayette
8:30 p.m. championship semifinal Raytown vs. Nixa
Final round (Saturday, Dec. 3)
12:30 p.m. seventh place
2 p.m. fifth place
3:30 p.m. third place
5 p.m. championship final