HARTVILLE — Despite several new faces, the Hartville Eagles have the same goals — advancing to the Missouri Class 2 Final Four.
On Monday, the Eagles showed they are still a contender despite losing Deric Jones, Dune Piper and other key players to graduation. Hartville jumped out to a big lead early over New Covenant, held a 49-27 lead at the half and cruised to a 78-36 win.
“I thought we did some good things, we shored up our defense a little bit in the second half,” Hartville head coach Brett Reed said. “They have some talent and some good players and some kids they can really play.
“I thought we did a better job of shoring up our defense and taking care of the basketball.The second half we were a little more patient.”
Even in a contest in which Hartville held an opponent under 40 points, Reed said he feels the Eagles can get better at the defensive end of the court.
“We take a lot of pride in our defensive rebounding and feel like its been a staple as far as the success that we’ve had in the past,” Reed said. “And offensively, pushing the ball without making mistakes. And in the halfcourt, just executing better.”
This year, Hartville is mixing a new group of players together with some seasoned veterans, young players and even a transfer. The team is slowly working in a talented freshman class and Reed said he expects the group to grow throughout the season.
“I think because of our youth, we have a chance to get better and takes leaps and bounds from where we are right now,” Reed said. “We just want to compete and be playing our best basketball at the end.
“Now, these guys will tell you that our goal at Hartville every year is to win a state championship. Now whether we have the team to do it … it is hard to do. But that is their goal and that is what they worked towards.”
On Monday, Reed said Stoutland transfer Evan Mathews was solid on the boards. The 6’5 senior forward finished with 14 point and hauled in several defensive rebounds.
The teams most experienced player, Wyatt Ward, finished with two 3-pointers and eight points.
“He does a good job being a good floor general and I thought he settled down as the night went on,” Reed said.
Guards Holton Simmons and Wyatt Mahan are both taking on new varsity roles and played well in their debut on Monday. Mahan scored nine, while Simmons added 16.
“I thought they ran the floor hard and thought they got some easy looks,” Reed said.
Several young players also got some varsity run for Hartville on Monday as freshman Eli Cook (6’0, F) and Brady Ward (6’0, F) both had good moments.
“They came in off the bench and really gave us a defensive spark and really got after it,” Reed said. “They jumped in the press and helped us get some easy buckets.”