Mustang boys' basketball program looking for a new path after ending 39-game losing streak

The monkey finally came off the back.

When Eldon beat Fatima on November 20, an era came to an end that the program would rather soon forget. A 39-game losing streak, stretching over a period of 684 days, was finally over when the buzzer sounded and the Mustangs were the team ahead on the scoreboard.

“Even though we were losing every night, I still think we all came out and tried our best to get a win,” Eldon junior Logan Hall said of the rough stretch. “To work your hardest and for it to finally come out, it feels really good and is a big relief off your chest.

“We have been so used to losing over the years, I think everyone wanted to win so bad and we just came through with it.”

Naturally, a little celebration took place in the locker room afterwards.

“You could tell everyone was excited to be around each other and you could just tell the culture was changing slowly,” Hall recalled of the night.

Well, that change began with the hiring of a new head coach as Ben Pallardy came on board after a five-year stint at Fayette where he finished 1-23 in his first season and turned it into 23 wins with a conference title in his final season before joining the Mustangs. Each year the win total increased at Fayette and now Pallardy is looking forward to trying to replicate that same journey once again.

Eldon played between 25 and 35 games over the summer and it allowed the coach to get a grasp on his new program. He noted that there was talent and it was all about getting it to gel together on the floor.

“There were some pieces there so just trying to get them all to come together was important,” Pallardy remarked. “We felt in the summer we had some talent and we knew with more time together learning my system and everything we do, it was going to get better and better and better and I think we are starting to see that now.”

Things are a little different at Eldon these days and for the Mustangs it is all about competitiveness, communication and expectations.

The competitiveness is a constant theme, whether it is practice or a game, as nothing is guaranteed for anyone.

“The practices are a lot different. Everyone has to compete every day for their spot,” Hall pointed out. “We have a ranking system that decides if you start or not so everything is competitive.”

Communication was something Pallardy also imparted from the start so everyone is on the same page. Having honest conversations in terms of body language, the way teammates talk to each other and being receptive to criticism as well as being able to be critical of others was key.

“We really worked hard on that through the preseason and I think it made a big difference. I just think we have kind of come together a lot more and the communication keeps getting better every day,” the coach stated.

Eldon dropped its season opener against Linn, but Pallardy said there were flashes and signs of what the team could be when everything was clicking. The very next day was when Fatima came to town and that is when it all came together as the Mustangs ended their drought with a 69-57 win.

“We went into Fatima and before the game we talked about how we deserved to win. We worked really hard and we have to raise our expectations that it is not ok to lose,” Pallardy said. “Fatima is a really good program and Coach (Ryan) Robertson does an awesome job. Year in and year out those guys are good.”

The difference for Eldon is that the Mustangs were able to build an early lead and maintain it the rest of the way.

“We kept telling them that it was not an upset and not a surprise. We just had to sustain playing hard and playing the right way for 32 minutes,” Pallardy recalled. “We were able to do that and it was really cool to see. I’ve never seen a happier group of guys in my entire life so that was awesome.”

Since then, Eldon (2-5) was able to add another win against rival Osage in the Tri-County Conference Tournament, but the Mustangs do not want to stop there and Pallardy intends to have his club hungry for more success. The coach says the team has lost a few games where he felt his club was on par with the opponent in terms of talent so taking care of everything Eldon can control is imperative.

“We just have to make sure now that we do not get content with just winning two games. It is more than the program has won the last two years, but we cannot be satisfied that we are better than what we’ve been,” he pointed out. “We still have to reach every single day to get the most out of our abilities and that is what we are working on now. We have guys that can really play.

“Our goal every day is to try and be the best we can be… We have to keep pushing.”

Hall said picking up a couple of wins early in the season certainly helps the team’s confidence and now the team will try to make winning a habit for a change. He has a pretty good idea of what that formula looks like.

“Hard work and a good attitude every day,” the junior said.