MCL finals set
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Try as they might, the Smith Center High School boys’ basketball team couldn’t shake Oakley in the MCL Tournament semifinals on Friday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Despite a 17-point Redmen lead in the third quarter, the Plainsmen rallied back to turn the fourth quarter into a time-preserving foul fest, only to fall 59-52.
“We were lucky to have a little bit of a lead there toward the end and basically forced them to foul,” Smith Center coach Joe Burgardt said. “My boys played some great defense tonight. I’m just really impressed with the effort they gave. I attribute that — the win — to our defense.”
Smith Center gave up 26 points in the fourth quarter, the same amount it had held Oakley to in the first three quarters combined. The Redmen were led by 6-foot-5 junior Mason Buckmaster’s 26 points, 10 of which came from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
Oakley trailed 28-20 at halftime and saw the deficit reach as much as 38-21 around the two-minute mark of the third quarter. Then the Plainsmen found a spark from senior Darius Herl. Herl only had five points at the end of the third quarter, but single-handedly kept Oakley alive with 13 fourth-quarter points to finish with 18.
Oakley got as close as 53-48 with just under a minute to play before four consecutive free throws by Buckmaster put the game out of reach. The team’s combined for 59 free-throw attempts, with Smith Center going 19 of 35 from the line. Oakley was 17 of 24.
Smith Center will move on to today’s 7:30 p.m. championship game at GMC against Plainville, which defeated Phillipsburg on Friday 69-56. Burgardt knows it will be a challenge to contain Plainville’s star senior Hadley Gillum, who scored 24 against Phillipsburg, but relishes the opportunity.
“Oh my, Hadley is a great player. Plainville’s got a great team,” Burgardt said. “I’m excited to be in the championship game. It’s been a few years since Smith Center’s been in this situation. I’m really happy for the kids to have the opportunity to play this game.”
The last time Smith Center played for the MCL title was in 2008, a win over Trego.
Plainville, Gillum too much for Phillipsburg boys
Plainville High School boys’ basketball coach Chris Drees wants his team to do two things well: rebound and defend. In the first quarter of Friday’s semifinal contest against Phillipsburg High School at GMC, this wasn’t happening and the Panthers would take a 16-12 lead in the second quarter.
“Second quarter they started missing a couple shots,” Drees said. “We started getting defensive boards and when we get defensive rebounds we like to push in transition and we were able to capitalize on some second quarter fast-break opportunities to kind of get us the lead into halftime.”
A strong finish to the first half gave Plainville a 30-28 halftime lead and an even stronger second half led to a 69-56 win over the Panthers.
Plainville’s largest lead came at 67-52 with just over two minutes to play. The bulk of the Cardinals’ points came from senior Hadley Gillum who 13 points by halftime and finished with a game-high 24. Chase Meitler had 16 more for Plainville, while Logan Frederking also found double digits with 11.
“For most of our year we have had three to four to five other guys in double figures beside Hadley. And granted, he gets a lot of attention but he is good enough that he deserves that attention,” Drees said. “But if you ask other teams they should know by now that we have other guys that can play, too. It’s not just Hadley.”
Phillipsburg was led by Stephen Sage’s 12 point, while Tristan Ratzlaff, Sam Sage and Trey Ellis added 11, 11 and 10, respectively.
Plainville will play Smith Center in today’s championship game at 7:30 p.m., while Phillipsburg will play Oakley in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. at GMC. This is the fourth straight year Plainville will have played for the MCL title, having won the tournament in both 2011 and 2012 before losing to Phillipsburg in the title game last year.
Ellis girls have no trouble with Smith Center
At some point, Ellis High School girls’ basketball coach Perry Mick figured his Railroaders would simply wear down Smith Center High School in the girls’ semifinals of the MCL Tournament on Friday at GMC.
Smith Center, the defending Class 2A state champions, lost a lot from last year’s team and Mick thought his depth, added with a lot of pressure, would be more than the Lady Red could handle.
“It was all about pressure,” Mick said. “You try to get steals on the press, but part of the idea of the press, too, is to wear the other team out. … I think we used our depth so we kept people fresh and I do think our press probably wore them out a little bit.”
Despite trailing 10-8 after the first quarter, Ellis would cruise to a 57-29 win behind 22 points from sophomore Alexcia Deutscher, 16 of which came in the first half. Ellis outscored Smith Center 17-9 in the second quarter and 16-2 in the third quarter to lead 41-21 heading into the fourth.
Ellis forced the Lady Red into 26 turnovers.
Drew Mann led Smith Center with 10 points.
With the win, Ellis will play Phillipsburg in today’s MCL championship game at 6 p.m. at GMC. Phillipsburg is coming off a 72-31 rout of Hill City in the semifinals on Friday.
“I’m glad we could get a win,” Mick said. “The girls put forth a good effort. I’m glad we’re there.”
Smith Center will face Hill City in the third-place game at 3 p.m.