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Plainville boys win MCL tourney

By AUSTIN COLBERT
acolbert@dailynews.net

The scary thing is, the Plainville High School boys’ basketball team believes it can do a lot better.

Despite a 15-point win against Smith Center in the championship game of the boys’ MCL Tournament on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum, the Cardinals left a lot out on the court and weren’t entirely satisfied with how they got it.

“We are happy with the result, but probably not the way we got there. We give Smith Center some credit because they did a good job against us,” Plainville coach Chris Drees said. “But I think we can get a lot better and I think we can clean up a lot of our mistakes that we made and hopefully we can learn from them. And tonight we kind of got the best of both worlds. We won the game by 15 but we are not happy with how it got there.”

Despite being matched point for point in the second half, Plainville, ranked No. 9 in Class 2A, was never threatened. It is Plainville’s eighth boys’ MCL Tournament championship in program history, and the third in four years.

Smith Center coach Joe Burgardt understood the colossal task that faced them against Plainville on Saturday, and despite a terrible start was genuinely pleased with how the Redmen hung tough against the Cardinals.

“We had a rough first half and that hurt,” Burgardt said. “We made a couple of adjustments in the second half. We stayed with them, we just had a large deficit to overcome. We had to try and keep morale up. The kids fought hard tonight and I’m happy with how we played in the second half. I wish we would have played the first half a little better, but all in all the kids, they worked their butts off and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Plainville jumped all over Smith Center in the first quarter. The Cardinals opened with a 6-0 run and eventually led 12-2 after a Logan Frederking 3-pointer. Smith Center trailed 14-6 heading into the second quarter.

It got worse for the Redmen before it got better. Led by an eight-point second quarter by Plainville’s star big man Hadley Gillum, the Cardinals opened up their lead to as much as 17 points and took a 27-12 lead into the locker room.

Outside of a few spurts, the game was played at a reasonably slow pace. This would typically benefit Smith Center, which likes to slow things down compared to the fast-paced Plainville team, but the Cardinals physicality and size proved to be too much for the Redmen.

“The game was extremely physical and there was a lot of pushing going on,” Burgardt said.  “I felt like that worked to the advantage of Hadley being able to be a little more physical, just with his size.”

Plainville wasn’t exactly lighting it up on offense and seemed out of sorts much of the night, but found success inside. Gillum led all players with 20 points, most coming right near the basket.

Gillum didn’t have to do everything, however, and was aided by 13 points from Brent Gehring and 10 from Frederking.

“Our outside shots weren’t falling. We were kind of trying to do it ourselves, each person, then coach got us together and we started cutting to the ball, getting some short layups in there to build our confidence,” Gillum said. “We got more guys that can score this year, so that even opens me up. Because if I was the only one that could score I would be covered and probably wouldn’t score.”

Plainville’s largest lead of the game came at 38-16 late in the third quarter before an 11-0 run by Smith Center that bled into the fourth quarter made it a game — of sorts. The Cardinals quickly regrouped and their lead grew back to 18 points before a 3-pointer by Mason Buckmaster in the final seconds gave the game its final score.

Taylor Zabel led Smith Center with 14 points, while Buckmaster and Kody Molzahn each had nine.

Winning the MCL Tournament is nothing new for the Cardinals or for Gillum, but it was a first under Drees, who is in his first year with the Cardinals after six years at Palco. Drees said more than anything the win validates what he is doing at Plainville and will help get the Cardinals where they want to be come sub-state.

“It’s verification that what we want to do is a good system as long as we can do a couple of things the correct way, which I’m not sure we did tonight,” Drees said. “I still think we have a lot of room for improvement. I don’t think we’ve reached our ceiling. The old cliche is teams either get better over the course of the season or you get worse. You never stay the same. And we are trying to get better.”

Plainville 49, Smith Center 34
Plainville 14 13 11 11 — 49
Smith Center 6 6 13 9 — 34
Plainville — Hadley Gillum 20, Brent Gehring 13, Logan Frederking 10, Meitler 4, Dewey 2
Smith Center — Taylor Zabel 14, Buckmaster 9, Molzahn 9, Lorenzen 2