By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
All 11 games Thayer has been in this season has essentially followed the same script.
The Bobcats made it a perfect 11-0 on Thursday with a 61-55 win over rival MV-BT/Liberty in the semifinals of the Cabool Holiday Tournament, setting up a championship tilt with Class 1 state-ranked Eminence.
“We are super excited to be in a position to win this thing but it’s gonna be a huge challenge,” said Thayer coach Matt Pitts. “Coach McBride does a great job over there and his program is top notch. I have the utmost respect for him and his guys. He will have them ready and we will do our best to have our guys ready, it should be fun.”
Maybe the most impressive part of the victory was how Thayer manufactured its points.
Last year’s leading scorer (Kobe Meyer) and this season’s scoring leader (Ayden Stone) combined for just eight points, but the Bobcats received contributions from other sources.
Senior guard Trevor Jenkins finished with a season-high 19 points, including four 3-point FGs.
Jenkins scored eight of those in the first quarter, helping Thayer take an 18-10 lead after eight minutes.
“Trevor is a good player with a great attitude,” said Pitts. “I trust him shooting the ball in any situation. He is a shot maker and a winner and I am so proud of him.”
Jalen Andrews and Braden Hufstedler added 16 and 13 respectively.
Jenkins and Hufstedler combined to average just seven points in Thayer’s first seven games.
Despite playing without starting point guard Dagen Jones, the Bobcats found a way to be efficient.
“That’s huge for us but we have a number of guys who are capable of making plays and they all put winning above the individual stuff and in today’s society that uncommon,” said Pitts. “They all made plays. Dylan Spencer’s play to end the half was big, Braden Hufstedler played great, Jalen Andrew’s stepping in and playing the point in Dagen’s absence was huge, Ayden Stone was big on the glass against a huge front line of Liberty, Kobe made some plays before he went down with that ankle injury and Remington Childers was big defensively off of the bench but we need all of those guys to get where we want to be at the end.”
Andrew Holden scored a team-high 17 points for the Eagles. Tyler Dewick added 10.
Under new Heath coach Kenaga, Liberty is attempting to change the culture of a basketball program that has never been short on talent but seems to finish shy of major goals.
For Kenaga, it’s all about building for the long term.
This is a new group and really on two players return with a lot of varsity experience. Every day is a learning experience for them. The young players are only going to continue to get better as they get experience. We aren’t playing for December, we’re playing for a district tournament. What we want is to get everything cleaned up in January and start peaking in February; that’s what our goal is.
Thayer 61, MV-BT/Liberty 55
Liberty – 10-16-12-17 – 55
Thayer 18-13-15-15 – 61
Liberty – A. Holden 17, Dewick 10, Orchard 9, Stretch 9, Stout 7, Kenaga 2, Cooley 1,
Thayer – Jenkins 19, Andrews 16, Hufstedler 13, Meyer 5, Spencer 4, Stone