McLouth boys capture Marmaton Valley crown
With defense and balanced production, the McLouth High boys basketball team went 2-1 and won the Marmaton Valley Tournament in Moran this past week.
A gritty, 41-39 victory Friday over host MVHS capped the Bulldogs’ successful week, which also featured a 44-37 win against Oswego on Thursday.
The only loss for MHS (2-1) came in its tournament and season opener, a 37-33 setback against Arma-Northeast on Dec. 7.
McLouth coach Jason Schroeder said the squad’s defense made the first-place finish possible and the only thing that kept it out of the win column against ANHS was ball handling.
“Turnovers were the difference,” Schroeder said of his team’s one defeat. “We corrected those mistakes a little bit (in the wins).”
Defeating Marmaton Valley wasn’t easy. The Bulldogs battled foul trouble all night, which led Schroeder to utilize every active player on the roster.
“We played 10 different people on Friday night because of foul trouble and they all played well,” the coach said.
Balanced scoring throughout the narrow win helped greatly. Junior post Alen Kramer led the Bulldogs with 12 points. Sophomore Marc Walbridge, who hit a pair of three-pointers, added eight points, Gavin Swearngin had six and Carter Gish chipped in with four. The team’s depth and bench production, Schroeder said, were great signs to open the season.
MHS only led by a point with 8.8 seconds left and freshman guard Drew Cerny was fouled as the home team looked to stop the clock. After missing his first free throw, Cerny drained his second to give McLouth a two-point lead, which it maintained with solid defense on the final possession.
It wasn’t until January last season that McLouth reached two victories, so when the team set out to win the Marmaton Valley Tournament and accomplished that goal, it made Schroeder proud.
“I was happy. It made the long bus rides a lot more enjoyable,” the coach said of the nearly 200-mile round trip treks to and from Moran.
Schroeder also could rest easy after the Bulldogs held their opponents to 37.7 points a game — “I thought one of the best signs was how we played man-to-man defense the whole week,” he said.
A few players stood out with their contributions at Moran. Schroeder said Calvin Booth came off the bench and performed well on both ends of the floor versus Oswego. That night, Swearngin finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. On Friday, the coach added, Walbridge gave the team a needed boost with his play at point guard.
Though happy with the 2-1 start, Schroeder said there is, of course, room for improvement.
“We still need to work on our guard play,” he said. “Our ball handling skills need to be a lot better, as well as our outside shooting.”