When asked if the pressure of an undefeated season was weighing on his team Coach Steve Goodwin said that haven’t ever really talked about it. “The team has just been counting them down since district and state play began. Six to go…five to go…and so on.”
Now there is just ONE to go. The Grems pushed their record to 30-0 with a 62-39 win over the Thayer Bobcats on Thursday at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
The Gremlins got off to a fast start with Sr. Stephan Cox winning the tip off and the Grems getting the first possession. They got into the scoring column on the second trip down the floor as Jimmy Villalobos crashed the boards to put back a Chase Lyles miss giving the Grems their first lead. The next time down Cox drained a trey from the corner and it was 5-0.
Goodwin felt that his team came out with excellent energy and effort. That has been a defensive trademark for the Grems all season and Thursday was no different as they forced Thayer into seven first quarter turnovers. The Grems were up 14-8 at the end of one period.
The second quarter opened with Thayer inbounding the ball. Thayer sophomore Tristan Oller hit a short jumper on the first possession to pull the Bobcats within 4 at 14-10. Oller finished the game as the Bobcats leading scorer with 13 points on the night.
From there the Grems clamped down once again on defense. At the 2:35 mark junior Chase Lyles knocked down his first 3 of the game and the Grems lead ballooned to 26-14. Thayer made 3 consecutive baskets and with 1:30 to go had climbed back within eight at 26-18. The Bobcats looked like they might have some momentum going into half.
But the Grems would have none of it. With :20 to go, sophomore Will Prenger made a 15 footer and junior Garrett Strange converted a layup off of a turnover at midcourt and the Grems went into half leading 30-18.
Thayer out rebounded the Grems 14-13 in the first half and extended that margin to 35-31 by the end of the game. According to Goodwin it was probably the one area of concern. He said, “Thayer attacked the boards well but we also stood back and watched too much. That will have to be better on Saturday.”
The Grems came out of the locker room executing their offense. They showed patience on the opening possession taking :50 off the clock before junior Keyaire Marshall scored his first basket of the game making it 32-18.
The Gremlins outscored the Bobcats 16-4 over the next 5 and ½ minutes capped off with senior Clint Spangler hitting an elbow jumper at the 2:40 mark of the third quarter, extending the lead to 48-24. The 3rd quarter ended with the Gremlins in charge 50-31.
With a little over a minute to go Goodwin cleared the bench. Sophomores Will Prenger, Kolin Brace, Charlie Wendt and Cal Racy finished out the win. The Grems outscored the Bobcats 12-8 in the final period to establish the final margin of 62-39.
Spangler summed up the Gremlin win, “When we are loose and having fun is when we play our best. That is what it felt like out there tonight.”
He went on to say, “Our crowd support is unbelievable. The school spirit and fan support is making this a really great experience.”
Statistically, the Grems were led by seniors Stephan Cox (17 points and eight rebounds) and Jimmy Villalobos (13 points and 10 rebounds). As always, Marshall, Spangler, Lyles and Strange all played key roles in the win. Sacred Heart won the turnover battle, as they have many times this season, forcing 17 turnovers (11 in the 1st half alone) while committing only 9.
The Sedalia squad now advances to the championship game. The Gremlins (30-0) will play the Iberia Rangers (29-1) at 8:10 Saturday night at the Mizzou Arena. Photos by Dan Hickman, Sedalia Weekly Observer.