By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Hartville Eagles topped the Iberia Rangers 71-33 in the Class 2 Boys Sectional Wednesday night to advance to state quarterfinals.
“Any time you hold a varsity basketball team in the thirties, you’ve done a good job,” said Hartville head coach Brett Reed. “Our kids, they’ve done that all year. They’ve battled on and we’ve hung our hats on defense and rebounding.”
Eagles junior Ryce Piper led all scorers with 24 points.
“I thought we played defense really well, and that was a statement point that Coach talked to us about in the locker room,” said Piper. “I think we came out and shut them down pretty well and did what we were supposed to do.”
In the first, Wade Bond and Zachary Voss each scored for the Rangers, but the Eagles dominated the frame; Piper put up 9 and Braden Branstetter 7 to help Hartville to a 26-4 lead.
Hartville only bested Iberia by two in the second as the Rangers scored in the paint with Jake Whittle, Wade Bond, and Kobe Halley, but the Eagles entered the half with a 34-10 lead.
Piper and Branstetter combined for 18 of the Eagles’ 23 points in the third to close the quarter with a 21-point lead. Bryce Coday and Brady Ward led Hartville in the final frame to close out the contest.
“We’re a true definition of a team,” said Reed. “Anybody on any given night can lead us in scoring, and they all take pride in the way we defend and the way we rebound.”
The Eagles will next take on the Greenwood Blue Jays Saturday in Republic. Last year, Greenwood bested the Eagles by two to advance past sectionals. That win was a precursor to Greenwood’s Class 2 state title. Hartville claimed the title in 2016 and the Eagles are eager to return to the championship.
“We were just focused on tonight,” said Coach Reed. “That’s where we lost last year. We wanted to get past this game, and now of course we go and focus on Greenwood and I think the kids will be up for the challenge.”
Ryce Piper is ready for the trial.
“We’ve been looking forward to this one for a year now, pretty much, and we definitely want to get some revenge,” said Piper.
And for tonight, Coach Reed is proud of his team. “They’ve been a fun group to coach, and hopefully we can keep going,” he said.
Scoring for Hartville: Ryce Piper, 24; Braden Branstetter, 18; Eli Cook, 7; Brady Ward, 6; Bryce Coday, 5; Holton Simmons, 4; Dalton O’Dell, 4; Cody Mahan, 2, and Josh Bettendorf, 2.
Scoring for Iberia: Gabe Plemmons, 8; Kobe Halley, 6; Wade Bond, 6; Zach Voss, 4; Easton Blankenship, 3; Chris Ayers, 2; Jake Whittle, 2; and Isaac Lawson, 2.