In a Tri-County match-up on Tuesday night, the Eldon Mustangs traveled to School of the Osage, looking for their eighth win of the regular season. The Mustangs’ hunger for victory made itself known early on in the game, as the Mustangs took a large lead in the first half, which they carried through to the end of the game, defeating the Indians in a 55-35 conference win.
"I thought we played well, besides the third quarter," Eldon's coach Nick Voss said. "We came out a little flat, lost the third quarter, and it kind of opened their eyes a bit, and then they got more focused in the fourth quarter and started playing better. We missed a lot of gimme's, a lot of two-footers in the first half. I feel like we should have done better, but for the most part, I was pretty happy."
The Indians were simply outplayed by the Mustangs in the loss, but Coach Bart Denbow doesn't believe that size was what gave Eldon the advantage.
"We just didn't come out and match their intensity in the first half. We're a young team, and we're not to that point where we can dig out of a hole that big. I was a little disappointed in our effort, attitude and focus in that first half. We came back in the second half. In the third quarter, defensively, we got a lot of stops. We just didn't do a very good job of running our offense. We were having some success in the inside, and we didn't get the ball in there as much as we needed to. That's what happens. You can't outplay a team for one quarter and expect to win, and we just dug ourselves too big of a hole," Coach Denbow said after the game.
In the first quarter, Eldon‘s offense put on a scoring demonstration, scoring 18 points while their tough defense allowed just four points from the Osage Indians. The Mustangs continued their dominance on the court in the second quarter, scoring 13 points to Osage’s 10, taking a 31-14 lead at the half.
After the half, however, the Indians would regain their footing, as their defense allowed just six points to the Mustangs, while Osage’s offense worked the ball around the floor to turn in 11 points of their own.
An Osage comeback was not meant to be, as the Mustangs recovered in the fourth, scoring 18 points as Osage could only muster 10 points of their own.
"We played much better on Friday, and I was just a little disappointed with our efforts tonight," Denbow said. "Our post players did a good job of battling, but we're a small team. It takes five guys to get after it on the defensive boards. Our post players had 25 of our 28 rebounds. Granted, they should have more rebounds, but at the same time, our guards have to do a better job of helping us out. It's not always about them getting the board, but about them keeping their man from getting there."
Page 2 of 2 - As the two teams prepare for upcoming districts, both are looking for momentum as they move into the tournament. Voss and his team may have had a rocky start, but he seems optimistic about his team's chances.
"The first few weeks were hard to adjust with everything that happened. It was hard for them to get used to me, and me getting used to them, but the last month we all kind of understood where we are coming from, and we've built a better relationship with the guys," Voss said. "It's easier now that we have everyone back from injuries. We had two or three guys out at one time, and that started our little down-streak. We finally got them back, and have been playing well through our last three games, so hopefully we can carry that into districts and compete and get a few wins, if not win it all."
He still sees room for improvement going forward, though.
"Rebounding is probably the biggest thing we have to improve on. We have to make sure we box out and handle the ball well under pressure. Sometimes, we get in a hurry, and sometimes we make bad passes, too. Ball-handling and rebounding are the things we need to work on," Voss said.
As for the Indians, they have a tough match-up against a physical team, and one they won't take lightly.
"We've got another game on Friday, and it's going to be a tough ball game. We've got Blair Oaks coming to town and they're a great ball team. It's gonna be a tough task. How we play there is going to speak a lot about whether we bounce back from tonight and how we get after it. We're a young team, and we've kind of inconsistent all year long, and we've had ups and downs. It's hard, sometimes, to know what we will look like until the ball is thrown up. Our kids are looking forward to districts. We're not looking past Friday by any means," Coach Denbow said.
Eldon: Joseph Limbach, 20 pts., Chris Hulsey, 12 pts., Blake Randall, 10 pts., Zac Shreve, 7 pts., Josh Jones, 6 pts.
Osage: Freddy Wackenhut, 19 pts., Dylan Jeffries, 9 pts., Tristan Hensley, 4 pts., Collin Samuelson, 2 pts., Hayden Drace, 1 pt.