WARDSVILLE, Mo. - Craig Engelbrecht is in his 24th season as the head coach of the Eugene Eagles. He's even had a team reach the Final Four. But he's never had a team that can shoot the ball as well as this one.
"I think this is probably the best shooting team I've ever had," Engelbrecht said after top-seeded Eugene opened Class 3 District 8 Tournament play with an 83-50 victory against eighth-seeded Boonville on Tuesday afternoon. "We had the 1992 team that went to the Final Four, but they were just athletic. We had some good shooters but we had so much physical talent. These kids make up for what they lack in physical talent with just putting the ball in the basket."
Eugene's 83 points marks the 12th time this season the Eagles have surpassed the 80-point mark. The Eagles went 33-of-61 from the floor (54 percent), the 11th instance this year they've shot better than 50 percent.
"The way we have a lot of players that can shoot the ball, you're just afraid some night the ball's not going to go in the basket," Engelbrecht said. "But so far this year somebody has stepped up. Then when somebody hits one it just kind of snowballs and everybody does a good job of shooting the basketball for us."
Cody Shaw led four Eagles in double figures with 18 points. Travis Kempker added 16 points, Camerson Massman chipped in 12 and Drew Geritz had 11. Ten players scored for Eugene.
"It's nice because everybody can shoot and we have so many offensive weapons," Shaw said. "Putting up this many points a game helps your defense."
It didn't take long for Eugene to assert itself. Ahead 10-8 with 3:57 to go in the first quarter, the offensive explosion began. The Eagles scored the next 10 points before taking a 27-12 lead after one period.
"Going into districts, anybody can step up and beat you at any time," Shaw said. "Getting off to a good start, putting the other team down, it helps boost your confidence."
Added Engelbrecht: "You never know how you're going to play in an early game like that, a first-round game. But we came out like gangbusters, shot the ball well and got the momentum going our way. I was really happy with the guys tonight."
It was more of the same in the second quarter. After Boonville cut a 20-point deficit to 41-27, Eugene responded to go up 55-31 at halftime.
Eugene scored the first 15 points of the second half to take a 70-31 lead. Massman scored three of those buckets.
"We kind of did our thing," Massman said. "We ran away with it and played our fast-paced basketball."
Eugene's biggest lead came at 77-35 late in the third quarter. Eugene went up 77-37 entering the fourth period. On pace to score more than 100, Eugene used its reserves for the final eight minutes, which all came with a running clock.
"I think it's amazing how we shoot and we don't miss," Massman said. "I'm ready for a rebound and it's just not there."
And for Massman - Eugene's only true big man - whose 7.5 points per game average ranks sixth on the team, his contributions inside just make this offensive juggernaut even tougher to guard.
"I would say for other teams it's nearly impossible (to guard us)," Massman said. "They can go in to me or they can pass it out and shoot a 3. Or everybody else can drive it. I don't know how they guard it."
Added Engelbrecht: "Cameron's a key. We talk about all the shooters but we're nothing without him in the post."
Tyler Peterson and Ta'Vious Brazil both scored 18 points for Boonville (4-19). Brazil pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
"I think that (Brazil) played a heck of a game tonight," Massman said.
Eugene (23-1) will play California in the district semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wardsville.
"We're not going to do anything differently," Engelbrecht said. "We have not played California this year. (They're) very athletic. Our kids just like to play."