MALVERN - Move over 2009 state football banner, the East Mills High School trophy case is about to get a new addition.
With a stifling defensive effort and a 14-3 first-quarter run that blew open an 8-6 game, the East Mills boys basketball team cruised to a 68-40 victory over Clarinda Academy on Saturday in the Corner Conference Tournament Championship game.
The score and the manner of the win surprised even Wolverines’ coach Kevin Schafer. Clarinda Academy was the top seed entering the tournament. East Mills entered tournament play seeded No. 3.
“I was shocked,” Schafer said after the game. “We watched them the other day against Stanton and they looked really good. I was a little scared, I was glad our kids weren’t. Our kids were prepared. They knew they had to play well and come out with a lot of energy.”
That energy took a few minutes to kick in but when it did, the Wolverines never looked back.
Leading 8-6, East Mills scored the final four points of the first quarter to lead 12-6. They opened the second quarter scoring the first six points as part of a 14-3 run that gave them a 22-9 lead on Jake Doyle’s steal and layup with 4:19 to go in the half. Doyle would come up big for the Wolverines in the drive, scoring 11 points in the second frame. His third three-pointer of the quarter put East Mills up 31-13 at the break.
Schafer’s bunch opened the third quarter with a 13-3 run that all but ended the Eagles chances for their first Corner Conference title. Back to back layups by Jake Bolton gave the Wolverines a 46-16 lead with just under a minute to go in the third quarter.
“Our kids weren’t afraid,” said Schafer. “I think once we got comfortable after that first few minutes we were comfortable as far as settling in. We played them three times this summer down in Shenandoah so our kids were familiar with their speed, quickness and their jumping and our kids didn’t back down.”
Schafer credits much of his team’s success against the Eagles and in knocking off Villisca 61-38 and Sidney 44-41 to get to Saturday’s championship to two things: rebounding and defense.
Admittedly, Schafer said, it took a little coaxing to get his team to dedicate itself to being a better rebounding team.
“We went through our rebounding averages with our post-players and I think they were a little offended. With Villisca, and Sidney and tonight, we’ve had three straight solid rebounding games and its changed us around,” said Schafer, whose team out-rebounded its three conference tournament opponents by more than 10 boards per game. “When you get more opportunities to score with offensive boards and prevent the other team from getting second chances it makes a heck of a difference in this tournament. We wouldn’t have been playing tonight if it hadn’t have been for our rebounding.”
Defensively, Schafer, a devout man-to-man defensive coach, begrudgingly went to a zone to clog up the paint against the Eagles.
“They have one excellent shooter in No. 30 (Jakwon Walton) and when we were in our zone we made sure we knew where he was at,” said Schafer. “And we decided if they hit a couple (shot against our zone) we can live with that but we didn’t want him to get hot, we wanted to pack it inside and hit the boards. We also did really well in stopping their dribble penetration.”
The Eagles had just six first half field goals and didn’t pass the 20 point mark until seven minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
Doyle led the all-scorers with 18 points. But more than that, Schafer said, Doyle opened up the Wolverines’ offense.
“The last two games he’s had solid games for us,” said Schafer. “He spreads the floor for us also. All the sudden if teams have to extend their defense that far (out to Doyle) it opens our inside game for some guys and our dribble penetration for other guys. He was definitely a key.”
Bolton added 14 points, Nathen Day 11, Luke Schafer 10 and Daniel Duysen eight in a balance scoring effort for East Mills.
Jarron Smith led Clarinda Academy with 17 points.
Clarinda Academy won’t have to wait a whole year for a re-match. East Mills travels to Clarinda on Friday for a 7:45 showdown.
“I told the Academy coach, we have to play them Friday, I know they’re a lot better than they showed tonight and he knows that,” said Schafer. “And we’re probably going to see a completely different team than we saw tonight. If we relax or go back to our old way we’re probably going to get beat. So hopefully we keep progressing and getting better.”
East Mills 44,
East Mills out-scored Sidney 15-8 in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback and advance to the Corner Conference championship game with a 44-41 semifinal victory on Thursday.
Jake Doyle led East Mills with 18 points and Jake Bolton chipped in 11.
Heath Huntley led Sidney with 17 points.
Fremont-Mills pulled away late for a 49-40 Corner Conference Tournament consolation game victory over Hamburg on Thursday.
A.J. Scarborough led the Knights with 13 points. Nick Williams and Nate Meier each chipped in seven points.
Joel DeLong and Colin Nahkunst led Hamburg with 10 points each.
East Mills 61,
The East Mills boys basketball team scored 39 second half points to break open a tied game at half time in a 61- 38 victory over Villisca in the opening round of the Corner Conference Tournament last Tuesday.
East Mills shot 50 percent from the field (24-of-48) and had 17 assists on their 24 made field goals. They also held a 24-21 rebounding edge and seven turnovers to the Bluejays’ 16.
Luke Schafer led the Wolverines with 20 points. The sophomore guard added seven rebounds and six assists.
Daniel Duysen added 11 points and five rebounds and Jake Bolton had 10 points and six rebounds.
Marshall Dolch led Villisca with 14 points.
Stanton edged the Fremont-Mills boys 56-52 in the opening round of the Corner Conference Tournament last Tuesday.
Derrian Bredberg led the Knights with 17 points and Nate Meier added 11.
The Knights shot just 36.7 percent from the field (18-of-49) and 11-of-21 at the free throw line.