As the new year rings in, Maryville boys basketball has one resolution: to play tougher.
The second half of the season began on a low note for the Spoofhounds, but with a new lease on the remainder of the year, every plummet gives way to a new peak.
The elite tier of the Midland Empire Conference is a selective club based on the prestige of the programs. The two main teams that occupy this space are Maryville (11-2) and Lafayette (8-4). The teams met in a clash of the titans Jan. 3. The Fighting Irish knocked the Spoofhounds down after trading shots for the first phase of the game that ultimately led to a 65-56 Irish victory.
After the game, one word was spread in the locker room to describe Maryville’s play: soft.
“After the Lafayette game, we were told that we were a ‘soft team,’ and we don’t want that reputation,” senior Matthew Madden said. “We are working on working harder and kind of being more physical on defense and offense.”
While the issue of mental focus spread through the team atmosphere, the problems were sewn up quickly by coach Matt Stoecklein. Each practice was compelled through the idea that to play a tough basketball game, the players not only have to physically do it, but believe it as well.
The Spoofhounds enacted that switch between soft to tough in the matter of practices as they continued to use that rally cry as motivation in the next two victories.
“We needed to get a little tougher, and I think they responded in that center game,” Stoecklein said. “That was our biggest thing, just our mental approach on how we approach these games.”
Basketball season is a grind, but with a mental edge, the Spoofhounds search for that continued momentum going into an easier stretch of play. After going through Mid Buchanan on Tuesday 53-46, the next task is rival Savannah. Maryville already bested the Savages on their home court earlier in the season with a 65-56 victory.
“We have an easier part of the season coming up,” Madden said. “We just have to execute, and right now we are feeling pretty good about it.”
When building a mental focus to the remainder of the season, Stoecklein knows his team is more than capable of handling the pressure. Even so, the obstacles that exist will still test the Spoofhounds as they make a playoff push.
One such challenge that each team coming into the new year faces is a transition of classes and workload. This challenge depends on a player-by-player basis, but even with the slightest change, a mental edge can be disturbed.
Stoecklein understands that change but knows with these teachings of toughness, it's about taking the new challenge and running with it day-in and day-out.
“The good news is the season is almost over; we are four to five weeks before the playoffs,” Stoecklein. “So it's not long before we say, ‘This is important for the district; this is important for the seeding. This is someone we might face down the road.’ So all these help going into the year with the first semester coming to a close.”