Merrill Boys Basketball Team: a loss and a big win
Merrill Boys Basketball Team: a loss and a big win
TINA L. SCOTT
The Merrill Boys Basketball Team played host to SPASH on Friday evening, Jan. 6, 2023, but the home-court advantage didn’t play out.
“We’ve been a little inconsistent all year on defense,” said Merrill Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach Troy Pieper. “The games when we have energy on defense and we are in the right spots, we are a really dangerous team, and most games our offense also has better flow end movement. However, when we don’t execute on the defensive side, we tend to struggle on the offensive end, as well, and unfortunately, tonight we didn’t bring it like we needed to on the defensive side and our offense struggled, as well.”
“We gave up too many second-chance points, especially in the first half,” he said. “We were down 14 at the half, and they had 14 second-chance points to our 0, so it’s really the little things.”
“We are a good team,” Pieper said. “When we do the little things, we can compete with the teams we’ve lost to. However, when our focus isn’t in the right spots for all 36 minutes, we struggle. I’m confident we will get things right, we have a great group of guys, and we have a great coaching staff that will continue to tweak things to find a way to get things going in the right direction.”
As for the Merrill players and their strengths in this game, “It was nice seeing Bradyn get his shot going again,” he said. “He struggled a little recently, but he got us going early having 9 of our 16 first-half points.”
“I was really impressed with how Carson Woellner played,” Pieper added. “He’s one of those guys who keeps catching my eye. I really love his energy every day. I love his attitude, and he’s a great kid on top of it. He gives the JV team that same energy for one half and is waiting to give that energy for Varsity whenever called upon, and the minutes he got on Friday and how he delivered will get him more minutes for us. He’s just an instant spark.”
SPASH 60 @ Merrill 42
On Saturday, Jan. 7, the Boys traveled to Ashland High School and the outcome was a lot different, with a successful game and a big win this time around.
“Sometimes after a frustrating night, it’s good to get right back at it as soon as possible, and luckily, we had a schedule that had us playing back-to-back, so there was no practice or waiting for the next game to get the loss out of our system,” Pieper said.
“The guys responded well. Again, like I’ve said multiple times this year, when we bring the energy and effort on defense, it shows how dangerous we can be.”
In this game, you could see it, he said, and anyone who watched both Friday’s game and Saturday’s game would have seen it.
“Our offense was way more fluid and we were more aggressive and confident on the offensive side, but it wasn’t anything we changed in walk-through or anything, it was simply our energy on defense,” Pieper said. “Defense creates offense, not the other way around, and once we do that consistently, we can play with anyone.”
“Carter Baade had the breakout game I’ve been waiting for. He’s one of our best all-around players, I’ve been waiting for him to just be more aggressive on offense, and today I ran our first two set plays to start the game for him to shoot. I wanted him to get going early, and he started fast, and it carried over the entire game. He was simply awesome in aspects of the game. His stat line (19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists) tonight was off the charts awesome, but not surprising to me. I’ve seen him do this at the JV level and was just waiting for him to see that yeah, I can do it at this level, too. His game today could be huge for us; it makes us a much better team when he’s playing confident like he was today.”
“Bradyn (Pieper) played well again,” Pieper said. “Carter and Bradyn are good friends off the court, and you could see them playing off of each other really well tonight. They found each other a lot, and it was fun to see them both shoot so well tonight. Combined they were 9-20 from the 3pt line. They are two of our best shooters, and when they are shooting it like that, it makes everything easier for everyone else.”
“We went back to our full-court defense more to try and spark some energy on defense,” he said, “And EJ Weix really flourished in the full court. He’s so athletic and aggressive; he caused so much chaos for Ashland. He was really impressive tonight, as well.”
“Tyson was dominating on the boards. He had 20 rebounds, just a couple short of the school record. He was attacking the glass hard, and his effort was at a high level tonight,” Pieper said.
The key to finishing out the rest of the season on a high note?
“We now need to take what we did Saturday and continue that moving forward,” he said. “We just need to be more consistent with our 3 E’s. When we Execute at a high level and bring the Energy and Effort, we are tough to beat. We are back in conference play Tuesday vs Rapids. We’ll see if we can build off of a nice complete game.”
Merrill 85 @ Ashland 35