Some say home court advantage is overrated, but when three or four dozen cadets all piled into the stands at the same time during the second quarter on Tuesday during the Missouri Military Academy’s varsity basketball home game against Wellsville-Middletown, something happened.
It didn’t happen all at once and it certainly didn’t happen right away, but considering the theme of the second quarter was rich with defense, that’s not surprising. But, after the Tiger began the third quarter by hitting a three pointer, Gabriel Penha and Victor Leon made consecutive scores from the post for the Fighting Colonels that first led the crowd to erupt before a time out was called as the home team had just made it a six-point game at 23-17.
When Penha then connected for three as time ran out in the third to put MMA in the driver’s seat 34-33, the cadets could hardly contain themselves. The Tigers response to all this momentum and mayhem was to use the break to its advantage, and what came out of that fleeting respite was not a one or two man attack. Instead, head coach Steve Gschwender and staff chose to finish how they started and put the starting five back on the floor and set them loose to do what they do best.
Eight minutes and several intentional fouls later and the Fighting Colonels just weren’t able to solve the riddle of the Tigers, falling to Wellsville-Middletown 45-37.
“Our kids played with a lot of patience. That’s our game. Our game is we put a nail in the ball,” said Gschwender. “We want to slow the game down. Our kids did what they’re supposed to do. They played with a lot of discipline. We withstood the second half when all the cadets were yelling and screaming. I told them we had to play hard the first five minutes. We also got a few layups that gave our kids confidence.
Once the Tigers had used their style of play to take a 14-8 lead in the first, the second featured a much slower pace that began with an exchange of field goals that included MMA’s Franklin Pfeifer to make the score 16-10 at 4:03. Adam Maylee and Tyler Bunch then posted consecutive scores for Wellsville-Middletown that Pedro Da Rocha was able to minimize by connecting on a triple that sent the game into halftime at 20-13.
“Having the cadets here definitely helps us out. It gives us a bit of a surge,” Bissmeyer said. “In the second and third quarter we played really well. Our defense stepped up and was able to create some turnovers. That usually spurs us into good offense. In the first and fourth quarters we were not able to rebound and we were not able to run a very effective offense. We started slow and we ended slow. That’s what cost us the game.”
The third is where the Colonels played their best ball of the night as Penha scored 11 in that quarter alone and Da Rocha also had four points, including a free throw at 4:58 that pulled his team to within 27-21. The Tigers did just enough to stay in contention though, as Clayton Ebers pulled off a three-point play 6:03 to widen his teams advantage from six to nine, and Ben Burton, Maylee and Bunch all charted baskets after that.
“Gabriel Penha had a bit of a rough night. He finally connected on some three-pointers towards the end that got us back into the game, but he usually shoots about 40 percent from three-point territory,” Bissmeyer said. “The fact he missed his first four or five really set us back. He had a low scoring night, and he’s one of our leaders, so when he doesn’t do well, that does tend to effect out team a little bit.”
The final quarter is a story that could be told several different ways. The short version is that MMA’s only offense for the session was a free throw by Jordan Hornick at 4:38 and Pfeifer scored once more sometime later. The not-so-short version is that Wellsville-Middleton’s Ben Burton came through with a three-point play at 7:05 and hit two free throws at 1:20 and in between those two accomplishments Maylee and Hunt added a field goal each.
“I love coming back here. I coached at MMA two years ago as an assistant. The MMA kids are great and I love (Athletic Director) Kevin (Bissmeyer) I really enjoyed this. Feels like home,” Gschwender said. “We want to play good defense and our kids did a good job against a good team. MMA has a lot of height. More height than we’ve seen all year, but at the end of the game we did what we normally do and we slowed it down.”
The Tigers are now 6-10 overall.
The Fighting Colonels are currently 6-5 overall.