ORRICK – Ethan Wilson and Blake McAfee agreed 13 was a lucky number for Orrick’s varsity boys basketball team Tuesday.
The reason: The Bearcats opened their 56-37 I-70 Conference and Senior Night win over Sweet Springs/Malta Bend with a 13-0 run.
“We had really good intensity on the defensive end,” McAfee said. “It just led to a lot of free buckets.”
In staging the 13-point run, the Bearcats played in a way coach Matt Brownsberger had not seen them play this season.
“This was the first game this year that we came out and established ourselves defensively first and then on the boards, and then (we) got to the free throw line early and … had ourselves in the bonus early,” Brownsberger said. “I was just really proud of how we came out and established kind of the tough, physical things early.”
Brownsberger also was pleased with how his players handled Senior Night, which included a ceremony between the girls and boys varsity games.
“You just never know … exactly how it’s going to happen, as far as how the focus (is) going to be or all the distractions,” he said. “But the guys handled themselves well.”
By contrast, the Greyhounds got overwhelmed by “the environment” of Senior Night, including “the crowd” and Orrick’s student body, Sweet Springs/ Malta Bend coach Tim Smith said. The performance was a 180-degree turn from what Smith had seen Monday during Sweet Springs/Malta Bend’s 46-44 non-conference home loss to Carrollton.
“It was … very, very disappointing. … I thought Orrick … (was) a lot better prepared than we were,” Smith said.
Wilson led the intense Bearcats (13-8 overall, 3-2 conference) to victory with 17 points. Helping Orrick get a Senior Night win was important to the junior and his teammates.
“We (have) wanted this for the seniors for so long,” Wilson said. “They’ve gone through the hurt of (losing seasons at) Orrick.”
Wilson was among three Bearcats in double figures. McAfee – who was honored during the Senior Night ceremony, along with his cousin, Gabe McAfee; and Devin Opoka – finished with 14 points. Junior Dylan Comstock added 10.
Sophomore Noah Fogarty led Sweet Springs/Malta Bend with 13 points.
The Bearcats, who have won three of their last four, are slated to finish their regular-season schedule with two of their last three ballgames on the road, starting with a conference meeting Friday at Wellington-Napoleon. They hope to end their losing streak to the Tigers that night.
“They have beat us the last 25 times we have played them … and we’re ready to come out, end that streak and start a streak of our own,” Wilson said.
It has been at least 12 years since the Bearcats have defeated the Tigers, including tournament games, based on Missouri State High School Activities Association website records dating back to the 2008-09 season. The teams last met Dec. 14, 2019, in the I-70 Conference Tournament, with Wellington-Napoleon winning 40-35.
After Wellington-Napoleon, the Bearcats have a Feb. 17 rescheduled non-conference home meeting with Tina-Avalon, then end the regular season Feb. 18 at Concordia. They will open postseason play Feb. 22 against Braymer.