MP team exceeds expectations

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 Messenger photo by Pat Donahue

Madison-Plains sophomore Matt McCollister fires for three of his 15 points in the Division III district basketball final held Feb. 28 at the Columbus Fairgrounds Coliseum. The game was the Eagles’ last for the season as they fell to Bishop Ready, 60-52.

Last year, Madison-Plains’ boys basket-ball team was stacked with nine seniors and made the district semi-finals. This year, only one senior was a returning player, yet, the Golden Eagles went further in tournament play, making the district finals.

Madison-Plains Coach Jeff Spradlin chalks up the unexpected success to all seniors stepping into leadership roles and to all players putting in a unified effort.

"Everybody pulled together when we realized we had to play team ball," said the second-year head coach. "After every huddle or time out, our cheer was ‘Team.’ "

The squad finished the regular season with an overall record of 17-3 and a South Central Ohio League (SCOL) record of 10-2. They finished as league co-champions with Greenfield McClain, giving the school its first SCOL title. (Madison-Plains was part of the SCOL in the 1970s and mid-’80s and joined again five years ago.)

"The SCOL is mostly Division II teams. We’re the smallest school in the league. So, we thought it was going to be tough due to our schedule, but it just toughened us up for the post season," Spradlin said.

After winning their way through sectionals and the early district games, the Eagles lost to Bishop Ready, 60-52, in the district finals on Feb. 28, bringing their season to an end.

"I felt we played defense well enough to win, but shots just weren’t falling for us," Spradlin said of the final game.

With the post-season done, the team’s overall record came to 19-4. In addition to those already mentioned, the Eagles tallied many highlights along the way, Spradlin said. They include:

• Defeating Greenfield McClain twice, the first time at home (63-54) and the second time at Greenfield McClain (44-36). The second victory broke the opponent’s 39-game home winning streak.

• Finishing ninth in the final state AP poll.

• Finishing first in the central Ohio coaches poll.

Three Madison-Plains players were named first-team all-SCOL: sophomore Matthew McCollister, who also was named first-team all-Central District; junior Seth Faulkner, who also was named third-team all-Central District; and junior Nick Joslin, who also was named honorable mention all-Central District.

At the team’s annual banquet on March 9, McCollister was slated to receive a team award for the highest assist average (7.4 per game). Faulkner averaged the most rebounds (10.1 per game). Joslin was the team’s best defender, and senior Kyle Lahna was named the team’s most outstanding player.

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