Smithville High School13121423
St. Pius X High School10162223

Loud guitars, crashing drum solos; the Saturday AM practice practice playlist was decidedly aggressive. Still painfully aware of the mistakes I had made the night before which in my estimation had cost us the chance to win, the music choice left no doubt, the loss was still haunting my soul. The locker room speech was short after the game but the message remained consistent through practice the next day, that loss was on me. Taking nothing away from St. Pius who has already beaten great programs in Kearney and Warrensburg, they played well and finished us off but the combination of poor game management, questionable substitution patterns, poor timeout usage; I didn’t coach a good game and the review of the film over the weekend cements that in my mind.

Our players, however, weren’t going to accept that reasoning. The texts started flooding in that night. “We got this, coach. That loss was on everyone. Not just you. Just a bump in the road.” “What do you want me to focus on this week? I didn’t play well either. We’ll be better next week!” And then one by one, players showed up Saturday AM, everybody got in early and we put together our best practice of the year, hitting our standards in every drill. Like the Foo Fighters and Black Keys songs echoing in the aux gym, we were steady, playing loudly, playing fast; getting better, beat by beat. This group gets it. They’re focused, they know it’s going to take some time to get back up to speed and they’re working to get there as quickly as they can. All of our goals are still ahead of us and they’ll get another chance at home on Tuesday.

As for the game itself, it started off well. We roared out of the gates to a 13-3 lead, including a spectacular alley-oop; the first in-game oop in at least 8 years, from Keltin Nitsche to Ryker Edwards, it was a small glimpse at the meteoric potential of this group. Unfortunately though, the reality quickly set in of half of our team has missed 26 practices and thus, we’re not as sharp on the offensive and defensive ends as we need to be. Missing 14 free throws on the evening certainly didn’t help matters, 41.7% on the night, bringing us to 47% on the year as a team–an area that we focus on every single day in practice. We just couldn’t find the stops in the 2nd half to finish it off.

One of the biggest highlights of the night for me though was seeing Dawson Strickland back on the court. After missing all of last season due to injury, having him back on the floor tonight brought such a smile to everyone’s face. Nobody has worked harder and represents our program better than Dawson. Ryker Edwards led us with 23 points, also leading us in rebounds with 9. Keltin Nitsche had 15 points and 7 rebounds on the night. Marcus Garza had 7 points and led us with 5 assists (0 turnovers). Rounding out the scoring, Rhett Foster had 7 points, Austin Miller had 5 points, Andrew Miller had 3 points and Spencer Engle had 2 points.

Ultimately you learn more about yourselves from a loss than from a win and as practice came to a conclusion on Saturday morning, I was more convinced than before; this group is for real. It’s a room full of winners. They know how to respond to a loss and they did and they will continue to.

After a few butterflies in the first half, our JV team put together a dominant 2nd half to walk away with a double digit victory on the road! With all of our sophomores and juniors unavailable for the JV Truman Tournament, it was the official debut of the JV squad for the 21-22 season and it was also Coach Mason’s debut as the JV coach, happy for him to get off to a 1-0 start!

The Warriors will have our home opener, the only home game we’ll have until 2022, vs. Fort Osage on Tuesday. The theme for the night will be Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

See you all then!