By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Hartville Eagles claimed their eighth straight Class 2, District 10 title Friday night with a win over the Seymour Tigers, 64-34.
“Winning the district is always special,” said Hartville head coach Brett Reed. “It was a good effort by our kids. They executed our game plan well and defended well, especially in the first half.”
Five Eagles scored in double digits, and 27 of their total game points came from their 9 threes.
Hartville’s Braden Branstetter led all scorers with 20 points.
“It’s not about the stats, it’s about team effort,” said Branstetter. “We all have good nights. We’ve played together for all of our lives. We know how to read one another’s moves and play well together.”
Coach Reed also noted how his team gels due to their experience together.
“We have several kids out here that can shoot it and have played a lot of basketball since they were little,” he said. “They’ve spent a lot of time in the gym, and I guess that is another reason why we are 8-0 in districts; our kids prioritize our program, being there in the summer, doing the work in the gym, what we stand for and defense and rebounding being the staple. We know we can control our defense and our rebounding, so we’ve tried to make that a statement point in our program and our kids have bought into it and take a lot of pride in it.”
Seymour senior Trinton Sampson and Hartville junior Eli Cook traded baskets to open the first, but three straight threes from Cody Mahan, Brady Ward, and Evan Crump and two Ryce Piper layups helped propel the Eagles to a 14-point lead.
The Tigers held the Eagles to nine points, three of which came from the free throw line, in the second frame. Seymour’s Carson Sturdefant connected from downtown for three of his team’s five points in the quarter. The teams entered the locker room with Hartville leading 33-15.
Hartville would nearly double their lead in the third, putting up 21 points while enforcing their signature defense; 9 of Seymour’s 11 points were from downtown and scored by Sampson, Steele Johnson, and Skyler Newman. Hartville entered the final frame up 28 and continued to control the narrative to the end.
“We knew what we were running into and felt we had a good game plan going into it, we just needed them to miss some shots and us to make some shots,” said Seymour head coach Chris Hastings. “In the first quarter, they just shot lights out and that threw our game plan out the window. But that’s what they do – credit to Hartville. If they’re playing well I don’t know if there is a team in the state that could beat them.”
Hastings will lose 8 seniors to graduation. “This has been a special group,” he said. “They are one of the most competitive groups I’ve ever had and there isn’t a dry eye in the locker room. This senior group has done a lot for us as far as winning our first tournament championship, and they got us to a district final, which we haven’t been to in a long time. They set the tone for future groups.”
“We started off 0-3,” said Hastings. “A lot of the guys hadn’t played varsity basketball until this year, so they were just getting used to the speed and physicality of the game. To start off that poorly and turn things around and get 17 wins, I couldn’t be more proud of them.” The Tigers end their season 17-12.
The Eagles won a state championship in 2016 and were shut out of their bid last season in the sectional round by eventual Class 2 state champion Greenwood. The Summit Conference champs enter the next round with a 27-2 record.
“We’ve set a goal with this group to win the whole thing, we want to win a state championship. We’ve got three down and four to go,” said Coach Reed.
The Hartville Eagles face Iberia in the sectional round of the Class 2 state tournament at Mountain Grove on Wednesday, March 4 at 7:45 pm.
Scoring for Hartville: Braden Branstetter, 20; Cody Mahan, 12; Eli Cook, 11; Ryce Piper, 11; and Brady Ward, 10.
Scoring for Seymour: Trint Sampson, 15; Carson Sturdefant, 6; Steele Johnson, 5; Evan Crump, 5; and Skyler Newman, 3.