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Leopold basketball team captures MVC tournament title
Leopold defeated Meadow Heights 74-39 to improve to 19-2
Kyle Stroder once again played the role of star, and his teammates played their important helpful roles.
The result was all too familiar for Leopold, which collectively stayed on a roll.
The top-ranked Wildcats (19-2) bowled over third-seeded Meadow Heights 74-39 to lay claim to the Mississippi Valley Conference Tournament title Thursday at Oak Ridge High School.
Stroder scored a game-high 28 points, and his teammates made their usual vital contributions.
"We know that we don't live on one guy," Leopold coach Andy Beck said. "One of the reasons Kyle is so good is because all those guys chip in. All those guys find a way to contribute.
"Tonight we had some guys step up. There's nights where they aren't stepping up in scoring but they are stepping up in other ways. They are stepping up and setting great screens for Kyle or getting rebounds or putbacks, things like that. That's one reason that we have had the success we have had and that Kyle has had the accolades he's had, because those guys are going to contribute and make him better, as well as making them better."
Stroder set the tone, making sure Meadow Heights (7-13) never had a chance at a second consecutive upset. The Panthers had upset No. 2 Oak Ridge in Tuesday's semifinals.
The senior sharp-shooter scored 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting on 3-pointers while going 3 of 4 from the charity stripe in the opening quarter.
"I wanted to come out and just set the tone for me and our team," Stroder said. "We just wanted to jump on them early."
The Wildcats certainly did.
Leopold raced to a 12-0 lead before the Panthers settled in.
Meadow Heights did not get on the scoreboard until a 3-pointer by Josh Douglas with 4 minutes, 36 seconds left in the first period.
"Our guys stepped up our game and we didn't look at our opponent," Beck said. "You know, this is the championship so come out and act like a champion and play like a champion. It was critical for us to have a good start. It's the one thing we talked about. We have to come out and start and get up and pressure and force some turnovers. I think we ran our offense well, I really do."
Leopold led 28-7 after a first quarter in which it shot 10 of 18 from the field.
Leopold had six players find the scoring column in the second quarter as it extended the lead to 43-20 by halftime.
Senior Brandon Jansen made a big contribution from the post during the opening half, scoring nine of his 10 points.
"I just wanted to play strong," Jansen said. "I knew we had to make a statement. Everybody was saying they had an upset against Oak Ridge, so I just wanted to prove a point and I just played my hardest."
Jansen was part of a crew that controlled the boards all night, which led to numerous easy outlet passes and points for Leopold.
"We just boxed out strong and we just really looked for the open gaps and just played physical," Jansen added.
Leopold's defense gave the Panthers fits all night.
If the Wildcats weren't forcing steals, they were speeding up the Panthers and creating a frenzied atmosphere.
"In the full-court we try to get after them as much as we can," Beck said. "We have our quick guards and our second row defenders and back row. We are athletic and we can get a lot of hands on balls. The pressure we give up top forces a lot of turnovers, and that's something we live on in a lot of games, especially our starts. It gets us a lot of early good starts."
The Panthers continued to scratch and claw and make Leopold work in the third quarter.
Senior guard Josh Douglas buried four 3-pointers in the period en route to a team-high 17 points.
Stroder outdid everybody.
The senior, who has established himself as one of the premier talents in the area, buried seven 3-pointers on the night.
Stroder went cold in the third quarter, misfiring on all five 3-point attempts, but Leopold maintained a 60-33 advantage going into the final quarter.
Stroder connected on three straight treys to open the final quarter before checking out of the game midway through the fourth.
"I just had to stay confident and keep shooting," Stroder said. "My teammates did a good job keeping me open, and they continued to make shots and we just moved the ball well."
MEADOW HEIGHTS (39) -- Josh Douglas 17, Jacob Douglas 5, Skyler Liley 9, Tyler Cook 2, Kyle Baremore 6. FG 12, FT 10-16, F 10. (3-pointers: Jo. Douglas 4, Ja. Douglas. Fouled out: none.)
LEOPOLD (74) -- Austin Bucher 3, DJ Keim 3, Kyle Stroder 28, Andrew McWilliams 9, Cameron Davis 11, Brandon Jansen 10, James Jansen 4, Ethan Broshius 6. FG 27. FT 8-12. F 11. (3-pointers: Bucher, Keim, Stroder 7, McWilliams. Fouled out: none.)