Maryville boys basketball carried a four-game winning streak into its Feb. 12 matchup against Benton, with the last loss coming 21 days prior from the Savannah Savages.
Spoofhound coach Matt Stoecklein labeled his team as gritty after completing a four-game win streak Feb. 5. However, there seemed to be a lack of grittiness to the ‘Hounds as the 56-46 loss to Benton (11-8) diminished their quest for five wins in a row.
Maryville began the contest on a 12-4 run, with senior guard Trey Houchin showing off his range, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“(Maryville) relaxed a little on defense, and then (Benton) hit a couple shots, and things started to go against us,” Stoecklein said. “We missed a couple shots. We hung our heads. We pouted. We sulked, and that was the start of that.”
Benton junior Kason Mauzey did not let his team throw in the towel early, scoring 8 points in the final two minutes of the quarter. The second quarter was not much better for the Spoofhounds’ defense, allowing Benton to build an 18-0 run.
“They just hit shots that people hadn’t been hitting and that can be kind of frustrating. This kid hasn’t really hit a 3 all year, hasn’t shot the ball great from the outside. Some of those kids were stepping up and hitting those shots,” Stoecklein said. “It doesn’t matter how it’s happening or what is happening, you continue to battle.”
The Spoofhounds did continue to battle, as sophomore guard Caden Stoecklein cut Benton’s lead to 6 points with a layup and 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Caden Stoecklein finished with 24 points, including 17 in the second half.
However, that was all the ’Hounds had in the tank for a comeback, as Benton capped the game off with an 11-6 run, making it five straight against the Spoofhounds.
Maryville turns its attention to a rematch with Savannah (8-9) in hopes of avenging a 51-33 loss Jan. 22, a game that has been circled on the calendar since.
“For me, it’s a game of revenge. It’s my only loss as a head coach to Savannah. I think I'm 16-1 against them now,” Matt Stoecklein said. “Just the way we left that game, I think the boys will want to come out because there’s no love lost between Savannah and us. We’re going to want to go out and dominate as best as we possibly can.”
The last time the two teams met, Savannah junior guard Quay Jeter was an unstoppable force offensively. Jeter scored 6 of the first 8 points of the match and ended with a game-high 18.
Houchin described that defensive performance as “starting off bad” and “no energy.” This time around, the Spoofhounds will have to start the game with confidence if they want to hold Jeter and company in check.
“No. 1, we have to play with much more energy and enthusiasm. That Savannah game we were flat as a team; we were awful as a team,” Matt Stoecklein said. “We just have to make sure that we are much more physical, much more engaged than we were the last time we played them.”
The Spoofhounds tried to establish 6-foot-9-inch senior center Marc Gustafson down in the paint, as he had a 6-inch advantage on Savannah post Ethan Dudeck, but the Savages found success double-teaming Gustafson as soon as the ball touched his hands.
While Gustafson finished that game with a team-high 12 points, he wasn’t as involved in the offense as his coach would have liked. Besides looking to score, the attention Gustafson draws will leave other capable Maryville scorers open.
“You can still go up and finish against two guys, but one thing we worked on also is hitting the backside guy. Whoever double teams, that guy is wide open,” Matt Stoecklein said. “We got to put a kid in a position there that can hit the 3. That’s something that we’ve been working on, is making sure we have people that can space the floor better.”
Caden Stoecklein, Houchin and senior Brady Farnan could provide the much-needed spark for Maryville that lacked in the last matchup. All three can shoot the ball extremely well from outside and will look for their big man to find them.
The 33 total points scored was the lowest amount of points the Spoofhounds have tallied this season, making Matt Stoecklein revisit his offensive game plan before heading into the contest. While Gustafson’s ability to find open teammates is crucial, they don’t need to rely on him every possession.
“We come down, and we try to throw to Marc (Gustafson) right away, but we don’t have to throw to Marc right away. We can move the ball from side to side,” Matt Stoecklein said. “When you come down and try to go in right away, well, it’s easy to double team because they’re all set where they want to be. You move it from side to side, now they’re out of position.”
After Savannah, the Spoofhounds are awaiting rescheduling details for the matchup against Cameron, although no official date has been released prior to the time of publication. Maryville will finish its regular season Feb. 25 against Chillicothe.