Wildcats capture eighth district crown

By Theo Tate
Posted 2/25/24

The boys basketball district championship trophy is back at Montgomery County High School.

The Wildcats won their third district championship in four years and their eighth overall after …

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Wildcats capture eighth district crown


Maddox James will never forget Feb. 24.

The Montgomery County senior not only hit his first 3-pointer in varsity play, but he became part of a district championship team as the Wildcats cruised past the Hermann Bearcats 62-37 in the Class 3, District 7 title game at New Bloomfield High School.

“I was pumped for this game,” James said. “I was super nervous. I was glad I went in there and scored in the championship game.”

MCHS won its third district championship in four years and its eighth overall after turning in an outstanding performance from behind the three-point line, hitting 10 treys. Senior Jake Stellwagen and juniors Clayton Parker and Jay Rodgers each had three 3-pointers.

“We shoot a lot of 3s in practice,” Rodgers said. “The shootarounds before the game helped us get ready and get us confident for the game.”

James hit the Wildcats’ 10th three-pointer with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, drawing a big round of applause from the MCHS fans.

“I knew they weren’t going to guard me because they didn’t see me in anything,” James said. “(MCHS coach Scott) Kroeger said, ‘Hit it.’ So I shot it and banked it in.”

The Wildcats improved to 22-6 and extended their winning streak to a season-high six games. They were scheduled to play the Versailles Tigers in a sectional game on Feb. 27 at Versailles High School. Versailles knocked off Cole Camp 50-45 in the District 8 finals, which was also played on Feb. 24.

Stellwagen said he was thrilled to help his team win districts in his first year at MCHS after playing the last three years at Verona.

“It feels great, especially with this group of guys,” Stellwagen said. “I’ve drawn so close to these guys. They’re like brothers. I love it.”

Stellwagen finished with 21 points, Parker scored 15 and Rodgers added 11 to lead the Wildcats, who also beat Hermann in the South Callaway Tournament finals on Jan. 13.

MCHS, the top seed in the six-team district tournament, defeated North Callaway 62-45 in a semifinal game on Feb. 22 to advance to the championship game. A year ago, the Wildcats lost to North Callaway in the district semifinals.

With the win over Hermann in the district finals, MCHS avenged the 46-44 overtime loss to the Bearcats in the championship game of the Hermann Invitational on Jan. 27.

“Last year, after we got beat by North Callaway and we were the upper seed, we knew that anything can happen,” Rodgers said. “We knew that we had to come out strong. Our coaches prepared us really well for this and helped us get the win.”

MCHS coach Scott Kroeger said he wore a shirt from the 2019-2020 Eastern Missouri Conference championship that helped give his team motivation for this year’s district finals. Players on that team such as brothers Carson and Collin Parker, Ethan Rakers, Ty Leu, Logan Hutcheson and Carter James were in attendance.

“I wore that shirt because that was the team that laid the foundation for this program and all of these kids who are playing now watched those kids from the stands,” Kroeger said. “They were like, ‘I want to be a part of it.’ Those kids built that culture. Obviously, it’s going strong. On top of that, you’ve got to have good basketball players and we have a lot of those.”

The Wildcats never trailed against Hermann. They stormed to a 15-7 lead after the first quarter and 31-13 at halftime.

“What we’ve been trying all year is to put a team basketball game together against a good team,” Kroeger said. “We felt like we did that against Van-Far (on Feb. 1). I felt like we put a half together against Clopton offensively. But this (the district final against Hermann) was the first game all year that we were clicking on all cylinders from the get-go. It’s pretty tough to handle these kids on the court whenever they’re playing on both ends of the court. They really executed the game plan. They made a lot of tough plays. It’s a testament to them for the work they put in.”

Kroeger said he was impressed with James’ 3-point shot in the closing minutes. From top of the key, James’ shot banked off the glass and went through the hoop.

“The bank is always open for Maddox James from the top of the key,” Kroeger said. “It was pretty awesome for him to get that moment. He’s ready to shoot it whenever it goes in, that’s for sure.”

James, who played in the junior varsity level for most of his high school basketball career, said hitting the 3-point shot in the district finals was a moment he will always cherish.

“Someday, I’m going to tell my kids that I won districts,” James said.


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