Plainville retools, tops Smith Center in MCL semis
By CONOR NICHOLL
Plainville High School senior Nolan Weiser and junior Hadley Gillum have worked with former Fort Hays State University men's basketball players Tim Peintner and Sean Dreiling for a while, especially last summer. Peinter and Dreiling mainly focused on fundamentals.
"It almost sounds simple, but just playing hard," Weiser said. "Just getting down and getting ready. Just being quick. A lot of high schoolers just go out there and just kind of stand there straight up. You've got to get your knees bent. I remember that's almost all (they) ever taught me. Get your knees bent, be ready and that makes you that much quicker and athletic."
Plus, Weiser and Gillum learned last year's talented Cardinal class, a group that included first-team Class 2A all-state selection Andrew Casey and went 40-4 the last two seasons. This winter, Weiser and Gillum have improved and led the Cardinals to a 60-52 win against Smith Center in the Mid-Continent League tournament semifinals on Friday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"They taught us a lot and we were ready for it," Weiser said. "It was just our time. Someone had to do it, and I knew I had do and he had do. Just got to show up every night, because when we don't play good, it sets the tone for the rest of the team. They see us hustling, they want to hustle. Shots start falling, rebounding, it all comes down to hustle, it seems like."
Plainville, thought to be down this season after it graduated its top three and four of its top six scorers, improved to 10-1 under first-year coach Lonnie Weiser, Nolan's father.
"It's been really fun," Nolan Weiser said. "He pushes me a lot, but it's something I have always wanted to do since I was a little kid, and I never thought that I would have that opportunity. Having the opportunity for him to coach me my senior year, it's just awesome."
The Cardinals, two-time defending MCL tournament champions, were to play Phillipsburg, ranked No. 5 in Class 3A, for the championship Saturday night. Smith Center, with first-year coach Doug Boucher, dropped to 6-4 and was set to play Ellis for third place.
"With losing those seniors last year, they were great, but nobody expected us, and we are just working our tails off to get something again, to still be Plainville." Gillum said.
Last season, Weiser averaged 8.7 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds, while Gillum tacked on 7.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. This winter, Gillum is averaging 17.6 points and 13.7 rebounds, while Weiser stands at 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Against Smith Center, Gillum enjoyed a terrific game: 23 points (all in the final three quarters), 12 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists. At times, he played all five positions, including point guard. He scored 11 of Plainville's 13 third-quarter points as the Cardinals, down big early, led 46-40 entering the fourth quarter.
"He is just a tremendous athlete, and he is so skilled at everything that he does," Boucher said. "Under pressure, he brings the ball down the floor for them and he dishes it off and then goes right inside to post up on you, and he is just a load to deal with. I thought early in the game our kids played him well, and I think our zone press affected them a little bit, but they adjusted."
Weiser went 4 of 18 from the field, but finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Smith Center, paced by 15 points and 10 rebounds from senior Taylor Zabel, led 18-9 after the first quarter.
"It was just a different atmosphere," Weiser said of his shooting. "I don't know why, but I don't think I have ever played that great here."
In the second quarter, Gillum scored six points as the Cardinals took a 33-31 lead entering halftime. After intermission, Gillum scored the team's first nine points, including a play where he grabbed a defensive rebound and passed it to junior Logan Frederking on a fast break. Frederking missed the layup, but Gillum ran down and grabbed the rebound. He missed the shot, grabbed another rebound and then scored.
"I got guys telling me hustle all the time," Gillum said. "There is always second chance opportunities. You got to follow up everything. You work your butt off now, you can rest later, which I try and do. Our coach pushes us a bunch to try and do that."
After a close first half, the Phillipsburg (11-0) boys pulled away with a big third quarter to make their first MCL tourney title game since 2005. Senior Sean Newlan led the way for Phillipsburg with 20 points, while seniors Tad Thompson and Seth Derr also reached double figures with 14 and 10, respectively.
The Panthers led 28-24 at halftime, but outscored the Railers 25-14 in the third quarter to open up the game.
Senior Brayden Werth led the way for Ellis (7-5) with 10 points.