Defense, size propel West Plains past Hartville and into semifinal

By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Springfield, Mo. — A 21-point second quarter outburst helped key West Plains’ 66-53 victory over Hartville in Thursday’s Blue Division quarterfinals.

Junior Allen Marcak scored 10 of his game-high 20 points in the quarter, as the Zizzers raced out to a 36-20 halftime advantage.

“When we started pressing, I just got one-on-one opportunities,” Marcak said. “Our team thrives off defense, and our defense turns into offense. We played really good team defense today, and you saw the outcome of the game.”

West Plains head coach Shane Benson praised Marcak’s performance in back-to-back tournament games. Marcak led the Zizzers with 13 points in Wednesday’s opening-round win over Mt. Vernon.

“I thought Allen played outstanding,” Benson said. “He had the best ball game he’s had all year last night, but tonight was even better. If he can continue to play like that, and we step up just a bit, I think we’ve got a chance to be alright.”

Equally as effective for West Plains was the interior presence of Jake Swope.

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The 6-foot-8 senior took advantage of a considerable size mismatch in the game on both ends of the court.

Benson was pleased with his team’s defensive effort in shutting down the potent Hartville attack, which featured a quintet of double-figure scorers in a first-round win over Spokane.

“[Hartville] had a hard time shooting over our size,” Benson said. “It’s hard to coach 6-foot-8. Jake did a really good job inside, and we’re long in some other places with a lot of 6-foot-2 guards running around. That makes it hard on some people, because they cover lot of ground with their arms.”

Swope finished with 15 points in the matchup.

While Hartville’s defense was able to force a host of turnovers in the third quarter, the Eagles were unable to make a significant run at the Zizzer lead, which held fast at 55-36 at the end of three.

In the fourth, sophomore Bryce Piper poured in nine of his team-high 15 points to help Hartville make a final late run, but West Plains was able to prevail in the 66-53 contest.

Piper was joined in double figures by Wyatt Mahan (11) and Cody Mahan (10) for the Eagles.

Next up for the Zizzers (8-1) is a Blue Division semifinal matchup against No. 1 seed Parkview on Friday. Hartville (9-2) will face Strafford in the fifth-place bracket.

Blue Division Quarterfinal: West Plains – 66, Hartville – 53

Hartville 11 09 16 17 — 53
West Plains 15 21 19 11 — 66

Hartville scoring: Ryce Piper – 15, Wyatt Mahan – 11, Cody Mahan – 10, Holton Simmons – 7, Braden Branstetter – 5, Eli Cook – 2, Brady Ward – 2, Dalton O’Dell – 1

West Plains scoring: Allen Marcak – 20, Jake Swope – 15, Taylor Harrison – 9, Garrett Warren – 9, Connor Rackley – 7, Clay Butler – 6