Springfield Catholic coach Tony Armstrong had no idea he was sitting on career win No. 500 because, well, he’d have to think about the other end of his career record.
"I knew I was getting close. I knew I had a lot," Armstrong said. "But I've always been afraid that if I start counting wins, I have to count losses too and that gets real high also when you've been at it as long as me."
Armstrong, a Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee in his 29th season as a varsity coach, reached milestone win No. 500 in his coaching career Friday night.
The Irish had six players score between 8-14 points as they blasted Galena 77-48 in the Spokane Invitational Tournament quarterfinals. The Irish made nine first-half 3-pointers and finished the game with 12 triples, which is believed to be a school record.
Leading 14-9 after the first quarter, Catholic blew the game open in the second to lead 40-21 at halftime. Garrison Howell and Colton Herrell scored 14 apiece for Catholic.
"We had two great practices over this snow-out week," Armstrong said. "They were so good on Tuesday and Wednesday that we didn't even practice Thursday. I didn't want to mess them up, so I was like, 'Don't come in the gym, don't come find me because you've had two great days.’
“They came out tonight and played the way they've been practicing.”
Armstrong came to Catholic from Blue Springs in 2012 after retiring from high school coaching for a “few years.”
As the Stockton girls’ coach, he won state titles in 2001, ’03 and ’04. An Aurora native, Armstrong played basketball at then-Southwest Missouri State and has coached at schools of all sizes, including Aurora, Marionville, West Plains, Lamar and Blue Springs.
"It's a great testament to some kids I've had over the last 29 years that are just really good kids," said Armstrong, a four-time Missouri High School Basketball Coach of the Year. "I couldn't envision doing anything else. It’s not a job. It's a hobby. I like to golf, I like to fish. And the other thing I like to do is coach basketball, from high school on down."
Catholic 77, Galena 48
Galena 9 12 17 10 — 48
Catholic 14 26 21 16 — 77
Galena – Cameron Caulfield 14, Caleb Hall 11, Blake Batson 9, Caleb Seaman 6, Coby Sartin 3, Logan Stewart 2, DeMarcus Walter 2, Lucas Vert 1
Catholic – Garrison Howell 14, Colton Herrell 14, Charlie O’Reilly 13, Michael Manzardo 11, Jake Branham 9, Jake Neff 8, Ian Cochran 2, Brett Maes 2, Wallace Squibb 2, Hunter Brown 2
Marionville didn’t have leading scorer and rebounder Rane Bateman on Friday night, but it found a pretty good replacement off the bench.
With an ill Bateman remaining at home for the game, Marionville inserted junior Aaron Head into the starting lineup against Blue Eye in the Spokane Invitational quarterfinals.
The results were good, as Head scored 12 including a key basket late that helped 2-seed Marionville hold off 7-seed Blue Eye, 50-46.
“One thing you’re always going to get from Aaron is energy,” said Comets coach Paden Grubbs. “He’s like our Energizer bunny off the bench.”
With Marionville clinging to a one-point lead, Head’s basket at the 2:08 mark put the Comets ahead 49-46 and served as the last field goal of the game.
In the final 1:30, Blue Eye missed a pair of potential tying 3-pointers around a Marionville turnover.
Marionville’s Tanner Wright split a pair of free throws with 29.3 seconds remaining to make it 50-46, as the Bulldogs would again come up empty from the perimeter on their ensuing possession.
“Marionville’s a more physical – and experienced – team and that kind of showed in pressure situations tonight,” said Blue Eye coach Kyle Turner.
Wright led Marionville with 17 points, helping the Comets overcome a game-high 19 points by Blue Eye freshman Andrew Mitchell.
Both teams were saddled with foul trouble in the first half. Marionville’s Jacob LaSalle and Lathan Kerans and the Blue Eye tandem of Mitchell and Sebastiano Frandino all sat out roughly half of the second quarter with two fouls.
“I think when they went out, we actually got a little more patient offensively and worked the basketball (around) a little more,” Grubbs said. “On top of that, Tanner (Wright) did what he’s capable of doing when he’s aggressive offensively. He really attacked the basket and kept us in the game.”
Blue Eye fell to 9-5 overall with the loss. The Bulldogs entered this season with no returning varsity players after graduating nine seniors.
“It’s been a little bit of a rebuilding phase with guys getting used to playing together and facing varsity-level competition,” Turner said. “They’ve adjusted well. Even in our losses, sometimes we come up short, but we’ve competed in all of our games.”
Marionville improved to 11-6 overall. The Comets face Catholic at 7 p.m. in Saturday’s semifinals. Top seed Reeds Spring meets Cassville at 5:30 p.m. in the other semifinal matchup.
On the consolation side, Verona plays Spokane at 2:30 p.m., followed by Blue Eye vs. Galena at 4.
Marionville 50, Blue Eye 46
Blue Eye 14 11 12 9 — 46
Marionville 16 11 13 10 — 50
Blue Eye – Andrew Mitchell 19, Ryan Reagan 9, Brennan Fairchild 7, Jacob Porter 4, Sebastiano Frandino 4, Tanner Snowden 3
Marionville – Tanner Wright 17, Aaron Heard 12, Jacob LaSalle 8, Lathan Kerans 6, Levi Doyle 3, Mason Clevenger 2, Cole Brown 2