Entering this year’s Blue & Gold Tournament, not many area fans gave the Hartville Eagles a chance of making much of a run in this year’s stacked Blue Division.
After all, many Springfield area fans knew the Eagles lost several players to graduation from their back-to-back state championship teams.
In knowing they have to leave their own mark on the historic boys basketball program, this year’s Eagles did just that.
Hartville started out as the No. 6 seed. After beating Reeds Spring to open the tournament, they stunned No. 3 seed Willard to reach the semifinals.
Their run ended there as they first lost to No. 2 seed Kickapoo to end a 10-game Blue & Gold Tournament winning streak. They followed with a loss to Nixa in the third place game.
Kickapoo went on to defeat Springfield Catholic to win the Blue Division title. Bolivar knocked off Ozark to win the Gold Division crown.
No Eagles earned All-Tournament honors.
Their big victory came in the quarterfinals as they won, 47-41, over a Willard team that many thought could make a special run in this year’s event.
It also gave head coach Brett Reed his 300th career coaching victory.
Both teams were held to just six points in the first quarter before Hartville’s outside shooting gave them a 22-17 halftime lead. Grant Culver made two 3-pointers while both Logan Simpson and Eric Wilson made one a piece. They each had five points in the frame.
Wilson added two more 3-pointers in the third quarter to help Hartville hold on to a slim two point edge heading into the fourth quarter.
Jacob Ballard then came up big with five points. Wilson made 5-of-6 free throws in the 15-point quarter.
Wilson led the Eagles with 17 points. Ballard, Culver and Simpson each had seven points, Brody McNiel added five points and Jackson Ward scored two points.
Before the big victory, the Eagles overcame a slow start to beat Reeds Spring, 53-33.
Ballard’s four points paced Hartville to an early 12-10 lead before pulling away in the second quarter.
The Eagles outscored the Wolves, 18-8, as Ballard’s key baskets helped Hartville to a 30-18 halftime edge.
Eric Wilson scored all of his points in the third quarter and Hartville never looked back in their 20-point win.
Ballard finished with 16 points; Simpson had 11; Wilson scored eight points; McNiel had five points; both Culver and Ward scored four points; and Jalon Cryer had two points.
Their Blue & Gold streak came to an end with a 54-35 loss to Kickapoo in the semifinals.
The Chiefs led 35-17 at halftime and never looked back in their 19-point win.
McNiel made three, 3-pointers in the third quarter for a team-high nine points. Ballard scored eight points; both Simpson and Wilson had six points; Cryer had three points; Ward had two points; and Carver scored one point.
Hartville also lost to Nixa, 66-25, in the third place game in a rematch from last year’s Blue Division title game.
Hartville trailed Nixa by just four points at the end of the first before a 20-point second quarter left Hartville trailing, 34-19, at halftime.
Hartville’s offense scored just six points in the second half of the loss.
Simpson and McNiel each scored six points; Wilson and Culver each had four points; Ballard had three points; and Ethan McDaris scored two points.
(Editor’s Note: Some submitted stats were difficult to read.)
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