‘Cats fall short in Hermann tournament final

By Theo Tate
Posted 2/1/24

The Montgomery County boys basketball team suffered two big losses in its championship game contest against Hermann on Jan. 27 at the Hermann Invitational.

First, the Wildcats lost junior Isaiah …

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‘Cats fall short in Hermann tournament final


The Montgomery County boys basketball team suffered two big losses in its championship game contest against Hermann on Jan. 27 at the Hermann Invitational.

First, the Wildcats lost junior Isaiah Thomas to injury on the first play of the game. Then, they lost a chance to win their first Hermann tournament title in four years.

MCHS fell to Hermann 46-44 in overtime to finish runner-up in the tournament for the second year in a row and for the fifth time overall. Last year, the Wildcats dropped to the Bearcats 45-38 in the Hermann title game.

Junior Clayton Parker and senior Jake Stellwagen were the Wildcats’ representatives on the all-tournament team. Stellwagen scored 21 points with five 3-pointers and Parker finished with 12 points.

Junior Jay Rodgers finished with seven points. He had a chance to send the game to a second overtime with four seconds left in the first overtime period. He received an inbounds pass from Tyler Erwin, then missed a game-tying shot as time expired.

“The fact that Tyler was able to execute that pass was incredible,” MCHS coach Scott Kroeger said. “Then, Jay got about as good of a look as you can ask for off a scramble play. He got a free-throw line look, but it didn’t go.”

The Wildcats dropped to 15-5 with six regular season games remaining. They are back in action at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, when they take on Van-Far in a key Eastern Missouri Conference contest. They will also play Jefferson City at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 at the Central Bank Shootout in Jefferson City.

MCHS will take on a Van-Far team that won the Bowling Green Tournament on Jan. 27 and is 4-0 in conference play. Two days later, the Wildcats will face a Jefferson City team that placed third in Class 5 last year.

Hermann won its fourth straight tournament championship and its 12th overall. The Bearcats also avenged the 47-43 loss to MCHS in the championship game of the South Callaway Tournament on Jan. 13.
John Hiatt scored 17 points with five 3-pointers and Nolan Brune finished with 14 points with four treys to lead Hermann.

“Obviously, they’re a good basketball team,” Kroeger said. “Their guards are as tough as anybody they’re going to play against. You’ve got to hug No. 3 (Easton Stiers) because he doesn’t miss when he gets open looks. No. 23 (Brune) and No. 0 (Hiatt) can create their own shot off the bounce. They can shoot. It seems like everytime we play them, they don’t miss.”

Daeden Hopkins earned tournament MVP honors after scoring the game-winning points in the final. He hit two free throws with seven seconds left after he rebounded a missed shot by Brune and was fouled by Stellwagen.
MCHS, which was the top seed in the Hermann tournament, cruised to wins over New Haven (83-21) and St. James (78-47) in the first two rounds to advance to the championship game against third-seeded Hermann, which beat second-seeded Lebanon in the semifinals.

Thomas, an all-EMO selection last year, was hurt on the first play of the championship game against Hermann and was rushed to the hospital.

“He was ball screened,” Kroeger said. “He was guarding the ball. I am pretty sure it was Coulter (Schwartze of Hermann) who set up a hard screen. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t looking right at it to see if it was moving or anything like that, But he ran right into it with his shoulder and popped it out.”

The Wildcats also played without senior Mason Leu, who has been out since he got injured in the title game against Hermann at South Callaway.

Kroeger said he was pleased with his team’s effort despite missing Thomas and Leu. The Wildcats came back from a 24-17 halftime deficit to take a 35-29 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“The kids fought super hard,” Kroeger said. “We don’t do moral victories. We talk about that all of the time. But when your team fights hard, win or lose, you point that out. We fought, fought and fought and put ourselves in position to have a chance. It’s pretty incredible considering you are down two guys who are averaging 28 minutes per game.”


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