Caden Stoecklein MHS BB

Maryville boys basketball freshman guard Caden Stoecklein shoots a free throw after getting fouled by a Bishop LeBlond defender Feb. 7 at Maryville High School.

Maryville boys basketball is rounding out its regular season this week with games that were rescheduled from earlier in the year.

The Spoofhounds began their roadtrip Feb. 18 against Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The ’Hounds play against Mid-Buchanan Feb. 20 in Faucett, Missouri, and their last regular season game Feb. 21 against Savannah.

With another season nearing completion, it’s that special time of the year where MSHSAA gives all of us high school basketball fans the gift of district tournament brackets.

The Spoofhounds find themselves placed as the No. 2 seed in Class 3 District 16, with matchups I believe are favorable for the Spoofhounds.

I’m going to take this time, so you don’t have to, to point out the advantages and disadvantages the Spoofhounds carry into the Class 3 District 16 Tournament.

Advantage 1: Tate Oglesby

We begin with the most obvious advantage: Tate Oglesby. The 6-foot-1-inch senior guard will be one of the most, if not the most, athletic kid on the court for either team. Oglesby found himself etching his name into Maryville history as he reached the 1,000th career point mark this season.

Oglesby is able to score in a variety of ways that include free throws, 3-pointers, inside shots, post shots and even dunks. Oglesby constantly finds himself in double digit scoring and almost always leads the team in total points.

I believe Oglesby would not want to end his high school finale prematurely, meaning he’ll use his leadership and determination to carry his team through obstacles that younger players might deem daunting.

Oglesby will cause fits for multiple defenses, which in turn may cause double teams, which opens up the other offensive threats to score.

Advantage 2: Marc Gustafson

Earlier in the year, I wouldn’t have placed the 6-foot-9-inch junior center in the advantage category, but his recent commitment to the aggressive Spoofhound play has propelled him to receive this recognition.

His most impressive game came Feb. 11 against Cameron, where he put up 12 points and grabbed multiple rebounds. Gustafson stepped out of his usual play, which I would’ve called rather passive before this game.

Gustafson is now jumping more for rebounds instead of just trying to use his wingspan, finishing at the rim and tallying points at the free-throw line.

I cannot imagine Gustafson won’t be the tallest or at least one of the tallest players on the court at any given time. His ability to block shots at the rim, face players near or shorter in height and bestow fear in the opponent places a high price tag on him. If there was ever a perfect time to peak, it’s now.

Advantage 3: Caden Stoecklein

Who would’ve thought a freshman could contribute so much to one particular team, especially with players like Oglesby and Gustafson taking the spotlight in most games. However, 6-foot point guard Caden Stoecklein brings too many skills to the table to be ignored.

First and foremost, Stoecklein is fast. He’s hard for defenders to keep in front of them, and once he gets past you — it’s over. He’s able to finish tremendously at the rim, and if he gets fouled (which he does more often than not), I’ll put my life savings on him making his free throws.

Secondly, Stoecklein has court vision that goes beyond 20/20. He can pass ahead on fast break opportunities, place the ball preciously in alley-oop attempts or find the open man in kickouts. He knows where the open man is at all times and gets the ball there with very few turnovers.

Lastly, you can’t expect him to do one thing. You expect him to pass? He’ll blow by you for a layup. You expect him to lay it up? He’ll kick it out. You expect him to not be a scoring threat? He’ll splash a 3-pointer right in your face.

Advantage 4: The Potential Early Matchups

Maryville begins its quest for the district championship against Cristo Rey. Cristo Rey scores an average of 34.2 points a game and allows 53.3 points per contest, which is perfect for Maryville. The last time the two teams met was in 2016 in the same district tournament where the Spoofhounds won 86-24.

If Maryville gets past Cristo Rey, it could face No. 3 seed Lathrop or No. 6 seed Cameron. Maryville is 2-0 against Cameron in the regular season, winning by a combined score of 126-77. In the one regular season meeting against Lathrop, the Spoofhounds took the win in a 56-48 victory.

However, Maryville is far from perfect and presents a few troubling pieces of its own.

Disadvantage 1: Offensive & Defensive Consistency

Maryville has had, in my opinion, too many games where the Spoofhounds cannot find consistency in one of these categories. Maryville could put up more than 50 points but give up more than 60 points. The ’Hounds only put up 34 points against the Benton Cardinals Feb. 14.

To find success in their district, the Spoofhounds need to be consistent in both categories. They need to keep their offensive firepower and score over 50 points as they’re 11-5 in games when they do that.

At times, I see the Spoofhounds generating steals, turnovers and blocks when running a press defense. They’re also very sound in hedging and switching, but that’s apparent in spurts. I don’t know if players become tired or simply passive, but they need to keep their aggressive play up at all times.

Disadvantage 2: Community Pressure

Since the 2015-16 season, Maryville hasn’t lost more than eight games, and they’ve already gone over that number this season. Attendance hasn’t been spectacular in recent home games, and the energy seems to be lost within the community.

After their impressive 23-3 season last year, the Spoofhounds lost a lot of the energy that surrounded the team. The parents, fans, teachers and community members expect a lot from Spoofhound athletics, as they should, but could this pressure be too much?

The pressure to perform well and meet community expectations could mess with the minds of the players. This could lead to timid body language, uncharacteristic mistakes and perhaps inconsistent playing, especially from Oglesby who is looked upon to carry the team.

Most importantly, Maryville hasn’t lost in the district tournament in the past four seasons.

Disadvantage 3: Youth

Maryville not only finds themselves with just three seniors but also relying heavily on a freshman to run the offense. This is troubling for many reasons.

First, how will Stoecklein perform in a pressured situation like the district tournament? He’s never experienced the big-time spotlight like he’s about to, and he’ll face tougher and more experienced competition, especially further into the tournament the Spoofhounds go.

Secondly, where is the leadership going to come from? While seniors Tylan Perry and Kelby Durr provide valuable minutes, they’re not as vocal as Oglesby. Can they step out of their comfort zone and keep the team focused and prepared? I’m also excited to see if they’ll look to become more of a threat as this is their last go-around.

Disadvantage 4: Central (Kansas City)

The only team to be a higher seed than the Spoofhounds? Central (Kansas City).

This team comes into the tournament with an impressive record and has defeated both Mid-Buchanan and St. Pius X, which are teams Maryville has also faced.

Overall, Central has been facing tougher competition than what the Spoofhounds have been facing and still post a better record.

They also have held teams to under 50 points in eight games and have scored over 50 points in 14 games. Maryville’s inconsistency could prove to be the most pivotal weakness here.

Central is also more experienced. They bring in five seniors and five juniors. The experience in positions that Maryville doesn’t have could prove to be troublesome, especially if the game was tight down the stretch.

It was a struggle for Maryville early in the season, but the Spoofhounds have since found their chemistry and even achieved a six-game winning streak earlier in the month. Their overall success relies on Oglesby’s ability to score and their defensive performance. Players like Gustafson, Stoecklein and Perry need to close the gap that stands between them and Oglesby. This will have to be an overall team effort for the Spoofhounds to win five consecutive district championships.

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