After a season laced with frosty cancelations and multi-hour bus rides, Maryville girls basketball secured the No. 1 seed in the MSHSAA Class 3 District 16 Tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
At the conclusion of the district seeding meeting Feb. 15, the coaches of the district decided that the most deserving candidate for the top seed and first-round bye was Maryville (17-5). The Spoofhounds topped St. Pius (17-4), which landed the No. 2 seed.
“The other team in the district who would have a shot at it is St. Pius and we beat them,” coach Quentin Albrecht said. “When the dust had all settled, we ended up with the one seed, which I think we deserved.”
So far, Maryville has racked up 17 wins this season with an unblemished record against district foes. The only teams that the ’Hounds haven’t played are Central (Kansas City) and Cristo Rey, which grabbed the No. 6 and No. 7 spots, respectively.
Despite how well the team has performed this year, it has struggled with big-time games and its mental fortitude. However, even though the team consists of mostly freshmen, Albrecht said, that should have no effect on how the team plays come tournament time.
“Well hopefully at this stage of the year, they’re not freshmen anymore,” Albrecht said. “They have 20 games under their belt; they’ve played in three tournaments and championship games. Hopefully, that big-game experience has hardened their shell so that they’ll be ready to go.”
The ’Hounds have gone 3-3 in their last six games, two losses in which the Spoofhounds were, at some point or another, in position to win. Albrecht believes that if the girls can fix the little things, they are fit to continue winning when a permanent ride home is one loss away.
One factor that can serve as a test to the mental durability of the Spoofhounds is the expectation that traditionally comes with trying to win as a top seed. A complimentary target comes attached to a team’s back when holding a high status. For the girls to have success, it’s rather essential that they learn to play with that metaphorical target on their back, as it would be for any team in the given circumstance.
“Hopefully our kids are playing with confidence but not with arrogance,” Albrecht said. “We can’t be too arrogant because we know we are very beatable if we don’t bring our A-game.”
Albrecht expressed confidence in his team that could lift it to cutting nets at the end of the tournament inside of the gym at Cameron High School.
“I feel really confident about (winning districts),” Albrecht said. “But when it all comes down to it, (the players) have to have confidence in themselves because they’re the ones that get out on the court and play the game.”
On top of having the confidence, the Spoofhounds must be physically and mentally ready each game. The body may play the game, but the mind gets the results, Albrecht said.
The ’Hounds have played competition that challenged each part of their in-game strategy, giving them more opportunities to improve in practice. With a first-round bye, the Spoofhounds will have more time to prepare for the winner of the Feb. 24 matchup between Lawson and Lathrop.
“Hopefully, being off will allow us some quality practice time and stay physically and mentally fresh,” Albrecht said. “There is no tomorrow if you’re not successful that night, so your preparation that night has to be the best that it’s been all year.”
Both Lathrop and Lawson are two teams that Maryville has bucked and plucked this season, so preparation should come with no surprises. But, as the NCAA Tournament has proven through the heartbreak of the postseason, upsets can happen.
“There’s no game when you get into districts that you can overlook,” Albrecht said. “There is no tomorrow if you do not win.”