As the month of February inches closer to the end, that special time of March known as “March Madness” approaches. For Maryville boys basketball, this time of year includes the Class 4 District 16 Tournament.
Before the Spoofhounds prepare for a run in the state tournament, Chillicothe is looking to diminish Maryville’s confidence in its last regular season game Feb. 25 at the ’Hound Pound.
The two teams have met once this season Jan. 26 in the 33rd Annual Cameron Tournament. Sophomore guard Keaton Stone ended up with a team-high 12 points and propelled Maryville to a 51-42 win.
The main focus will be on Chillicothe guards sophomore Griffith Bonderer and senior Hayden Simmer. Bonderer leads the Hornets in scoring, averaging 14 points, and Simmer follows closely behind with 13.
Both guards can create space and get in a groove at any point in the game, as both are shooting better than 43% on the year. The Spoofhounds will have to get a hand up, contest all shots and limit them from driving to the rim.
Maryville coach Matt Stoecklein thought his team was smart in all facets of the game last contest against the Hornets and wants to duplicate that to sweep the two-game series.
“There was situational stuff, like last second shot selection, that we did a better job of. We had fouls to give, so we were pretty aggressive on defense at the end of that game,” Stoecklein said. “We made adjustments. Griffith (Bonderer) made two or three 3’s to start with, so we got much tighter on him, and I don’t think he hit a 3 again.”
The ’Hounds will look to tighten up their 3-point defense before heading into district play, as they allowed Cameron to knock down 11 3-pointers Feb. 17. Offensively, Stoecklein wants his players to finish at the rim better, which starts with 6-foot-9-inch senior center Marc Gustafson.
The Spoofhounds were placed as the No. 3 seed in Class 4 District 16 and will face No. 6 seed Cameron March 1 at the ’Hound Pound, as the higher seed gets to host due to COVID-19.
“We landed right where we should be, as the three seed, but like any tournament, the three seed is capable of winning it. The No. 1 seed coach (Richmond’s Kevin Jermain) said, ‘If this tournament was played four times, there might be four different winners,’” Stoecklein said. “I believe that, too. I don’t know if there’s any clear-cut favorite.”
Although Cameron knocked down 11 3-pointers during the last matchup, senior guard Trey Houchin retaliated with 10 of his own, willing the Spoofhounds to a 66-59 victory. Since the Class 3 District 16 Tournament in 2015, the Spoofhounds have won eight straight against the Dragons.
Houchin was able to perform at such a high level due to the Dragons’ defense planning to limit sophomore guard Caden Stoecklein. Anytime Caden Stoecklein drove to the basket, the defense collapsed, allowing Houchin to be open beyond the arc. With the Dragons having to shift their attention to two high-scoring guards, the floor space can be opened even more.
From a defensive standpoint, having played Cameron once this season makes scouting potential scoring threats easier.
“I think we’re a little bit more adjusted to what their better players can do now. We’ve seen it firsthand,” Matt Stoecklein said. “Some are quicker than we thought; some could shoot better than we thought. Now that we’ve seen that firsthand, hopefully we’ll be better adjusted.”
A win against Cameron will move Maryville to the semifinals versus No. 2-seeded Benton March 3 in St. Joseph, Missouri.
The Cardinals have gotten the best of the Spoofhounds as of late, winning the previous five matchups, including two this season. Matt Stoecklein admitted his team has a mental roadblock where they have trouble pulling out wins against Benton.
Maryville began the Feb. 12 contest against the Cardinals on a 12-4 run, but an 18-0 run from Benton all but put the game away, resulting in a 10-point loss for the ’Hounds. The phrase “third time’s a charm” will be vocalized in the Maryville locker room if this matchup falls into place.
“It is a hard time for them to beat us three times in a row in the same season. I think we’re now better adjusted to hopefully defend better,” Matt Stoecklein said. “It goes back to knowing where your man is and not getting lost. We just have to be better aware of who our man is.”
The man Maryville will want to keep track of at all times is junior Kason Mauzey. Mauzey averages 18 points on 57% shooting and seven rebounds. Since he’s more of an off-the-dribble athlete and looks for curl cuts, the Spoofhounds will look at playing zone instead of double teaming.
The hardships of playing Benton have motivated Matt Stoecklein and company to end their losing skid and get over that hump that has plagued them for two seasons.
“It’s not different than Savannah. We lost to them, and our boys were much more motivated to play Savannah that second time. I think they’ll be more motivated to play Benton the third time,” Matt Stoecklein said. “When we heard that Caine (Kamren) was out because he quit, I think we thought, ‘Hey, it’s going to be a little easier,’ but they played better as a team with him out.”
The key to moving past Benton and into the district championship starts with passing the basketball around the perimeter instead of tossing it into Gustafson in the paint right away. Matt Stoecklein wants his offense to spend at least 20 seconds to find a good shot from shooters.
The bottom half of the bracket won’t be an easy task for the Spoofhounds, but they’re ready for any challenge thrown their way.
“I wouldn’t have minded playing Richmond, someone brand new, someone new and different, where maybe we don’t have that mental hang-up with them,” Matt Stoecklein said. “I think the three seed is just fine. It was either going to be Cameron or Chillicothe. We’ve played both of them just recently, and then Benton. Yes, we have familiarity with them. I’m good with being No. 3."