At 18-1, Eugene Eagles are putting together a year to remember
Monday, February 10, 2014
EUGENE — The Eugene Eagles are putting together a magical season.
Eugene is ranked third in Class 3 and sports a gaudy 18-1 record. The lone loss? At Nixa, a 14-4 squad receiving votes in Class 5.
“We expected to be good because we had so many people coming back from last year,” Eugene head coach Craig Engelbrecht said. “But I think even they have exceeded my expectations. We’ve been playing really well together, and they’re just a fun group to be around.”
Eugene returned 10 players — including the top seven scorers and top four rebounders — from last season’s 19-8 team that lost in the district semifinals to eventual state quarterfinalist Southern Boone.
That continuity has led to one of the best seasons in program history.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Cody Shaw, a senior point guard who leads the Eagles with 17.4 points and 4.1 assists per game. “Since we didn’t lose anybody and have all played together, we know each other’s tendencies. We lost that one to Nixa, but that helped us learn. We’re not afraid to lose now and we’re just going to work hard every day to get better and keep going.
“We knew we had a good team. We kind of expected a good record, maybe not quite 18-1 like we are now.”
Shaw directs an offense averaging a whopping 78.4 points per game. Two others average double figures — junior twins Tyler Kempker at 14.6 ppg and Travis Kempker at 11.4 ppg — while senior Drew Geritz (8.5 ppg) and sophomore Cameron Dickerson (9.4 ppg) aren’t far off when coming off the bench. Senior center Cameron Massman adds 7.2 ppg while senior guard Austin Russell scores 6.1 ppg to round out the starting lineup.
“We don’t just have one guy you can key on,” Engelbrecht said. “We’ve got numerous people who can shoot the ball well. … We’ve got that inside presence. We have a lot of shooters.”
That’s an understatement.
All 10 players on the roster have connected on at least one 3-pointer. The Eagles are 202-for-511 (40 percent) from beyond the arc on the season, having launched at least 14 3s in every game. Eugene has taken as many as 35 3s in a game, making as many as 18. The Eagles boast 13 games with double-digit 3-point makes.
“He never restricts us,” Geritz, who connected on six 3-pointers during Eugene’s 86-72 victory against Blair Oaks on Saturday, said of Engelbrecht giving the guards the green light. “The only one he restricts is our post player, he doesn’t get to shoot very often. We all can shoot very well.”
Tyler Kempker leads the 3-point barrage, connecting on 54-of-117 attempts (46 percent) from beyond the arc. Geritz is 41-of-98 (42 percent), Shaw is 40-of-95 (42 percent) and Dickerson is 38-of-112 (34 percent). Russell (13 3s) and Travis Kempker (11 3s) round out an impressive six players with double-digit 3s on the season.
“We have a lot of guys that shoot well from 3,” Engelbrecht said. “This is probably the best shooting team I’ve had in a lot of years. A lot of them have the green light.”
Four more games remain on the regular-season slate before Class 3 District 8 Tournament play commences later this month.
For all of Eugene’s success this season, it might be considered quite an accomplishment just to escape the stacked district. Six of the eight teams currently possess records above .500. Blair Oaks (16-4), Versailles (12-5), California (12-6), Hallsville (13-7) and Centralia (10-4) all will pose a threat. Only Boonville and Southern Boone will enter with losing records.
“The district is going to be extremely tough,” Engelbrecht said. “It always goes through Blair Oaks just because of their tradition. … You just have to play well every night.”
That doesn’t mean the Eagles aren’t thinking about something bigger.
“Hoping to go far,” Shaw said. “Maybe go to state this year since this is my last year here.”
Added Geritz: “We hope we can make it to state. But we have to win districts first. That’s going to be tough.”
While certainly a lofty goal, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.
“I wouldn’t have though so earlier in the year,” Engelbrecht said. “… I’m not going to put any shackles on them. If they want to keep running with it, we’re just going to keep running with it.”
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