By Chris Parker
Hartville dominated Class 3 No. 1 ranked Greenwood from start to finish in a 48-31 win on the second night of the Springfield R12 Winter Classic.
“It feels absolutely incredible. I would have never believed it had been a point margin quite as wide as it was tonight. That is just testament to the guys. They played fantastically; four quarters of fantastic basketball,” Hartville head coach Brett Reed said.
Hartville was dominant in every column on the stat sheet. The Eagles shot 53% from the field to Greenwood’s 38%. Hartville was 30% from three-point range to Greenwood’s 9%. Greenwood has more size than Hartville, but that would be hard to tell from Hartville’s 23-16 advantage rebounding and 32-22 advantage on points in the paint.
“It’s all heart,” Reed said. “I mean these boys got grit. They’ve got fire, determination, heart; all those clichés that coaches talk about, but these guys really have it. One of the greatest groups; probably the greatest group I’ll ever coach of five guys playing as a unit.”
Greenwood scored the first points of the game and led twice in the first quarter for 38 total seconds. That would be the last lead that Greenwood would have in the game, as Hartville led for 31 of the 32 minutes in the game. Hartville went up 5-4 at the 5:57 mark of the first quarter and never trailed again. The Eagles extended their lead to 10 points with 43 seconds left in the first quarter, which allowed Hartville to slow things down hunting for open looks and easy baskets.
“(The early lead was) very important. We tried to be patient again, but at the same time if we got we got some looks in transition, we were going to take them as always. We got some good looks early on. Greenwood was switching defenses, and I thought our kids responded well,” Reed said. “Getting out to that early lead, and then of course in the fourth quarter having a lead; we’re able to preserve those most of the time.”
Hartville’s patient approach on offense led to a lot of easy looks. Hartville scored 32 of its points on 16 layups.
The greatest feat of the game for Hartville might have been holding five-star Georgetown commit Aminu Mohammed to just eight points in 31 minutes.
“We focus on defense a lot. Aminu (Mohammed) is a great, great player; best player I’ve ever witnessed. We had a game plan to go in and shut him down, and we did that tonight,” Hartville’s Ryce Piper said.
Greenwood entered the game averaging 66.3 points per game and had not scored less than 57 points in any of its 12 wins.
Hartville led 27-14 at the half. The Blue Jays came out in the third quarter motivated and opened the quarter on a 7-2 run to cut Hartville’s lead to seven. That would be the closest Greenwood would get. Hartville posted a 5-0 run to finish the third and carry a 12-point lead into the final frame.
The lead never got smaller than eight points in the fourth quarter.
Hartville prides itself on a team approach, but Piper was the unquestioned leader of that team on Friday with a game-high 20 points with nine rebounds and five assists. He was 9-for-14 from the field helping to lead the Eagles to the win in front of a supportive crowd.
“I think (the win) means a lot to us and our community. We have a huge community that comes and supports us every game and a lot of that. I just want to give credit to them because they come supported,” Piper said.
Hartville won the Blue Division title in the Blue & Gold tournament last month. Now the Eagles are 2-0 in the Springfield R12 Winter Classic, which has established Hartville as the team to beat in southwest Missouri.
“We’re the team today, but we’re going to have to play them (Greenwood) again, and we’re going to play some tough games along the way,” Reed said. “Right now we’re playing at a high level. We want to take that and continue to get better and really be playing our very best by postseason. I guess we’re the team for now. I guess we earned it this week so far. We’ve got the game tomorrow, but we still have more work to do.”
Hartville will close out its Winter Classic with a game against Sunrise Christian on Saturday at 1 p.m. Greenwood will face Kickapoo for a second time this season in the final game of the event at 3 p.m.