Just as the children of Hamelin followed the Pied Piper, the Eagles of Hartville follow Dune Piper.
The senior guard scored 25 points to lead Hartville to a 52-46 comeback win over Springfield Catholic in the Blue Division quarterfinals of the Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament on Tuesday at JQH Arena. Piper accepted a challenge to be a leader from coach Brett Reed.
“The last few years I’ve been more of an assist and defensive player. This year, Coach has even been saying I need to step up and score more,” Piper said.
Piper was the No. 3 or sometimes No. 4 scoring option on a Hartville team that Ryan Ward and Grant Dedmon led to the school’s first ever state championship in March 2016. Ward and Dedmon have since graduated, leaving Piper, Deric Jones and Wyatt Ward to take the reigns.
The reigning Class 2 boys basketball state champions trailed Springfield Catholic by 11 points after eight minutes of play.
“We need to work on our defense. (Springfield Catholic) were getting too many open looks, really is what it was. They were hitting shots. They shot really well the first quarter,” Piper said. “Coach put it on us real good, so we figured we’d step up and play some basketball for once this game.”
Hartville (9-0) outscored Springfield Catholic 15-6 in the second quarter and trailed by two points at halftime.
“We had a hard time getting going. It looked like we came out not focused and ready to go,” Reed said.
Hartville also got 11 points from Jones.
The Fightin’ Irish (6-2) had a more balanced stat sheet. Sophomore Charlie O’Reilly led with 13 points, and Brett Maes, Jake Branham and Michael Manzardo each scored seven points.
Piper’s game was balanced as well, with 13 points scored in the first half and 12 points in the second half.
“(Piper) was very valuable,” Reed said. “He finished well around the basket, and it seems like that’s how the season has gone. Deric Jones has had some big games, Dune has had some big games. We’ve had some kids that you call role players, so to speak, but they’ve hit some big shots.”
Piper has experience playing in college arenas like JQH Arena, the O’Reilly Family Event Center and Mizzou Arena, but he says he still has to adjust each time the Eagles play on a big stage.
“Shooting on a goal like that (at JQH Arena) compared to a goal at Hartville is way different,” Piper said. “It just looks like it’s 30 feet away from you when you’re shooting a free throw. It’s a big difference.”
Hartville advances to play Glendale at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Blue Division semifinals. It’s another step on a beefed-up schedule for the No. 1-ranked team in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 2 poll.
“There’s no doubt we’re battle tested as far as our schedule is concerned,” Reed said. “That prepares us for the playoffs, and obviously the playoffs are the most important thing.”
(3)Hartville 52, (6)Springfield Catholic 46
Hartville—Dune Piper 25, Deric Jones 11, Wyatt Ward 7, Jace Keith 6, Braden Keith 3
Catholic—Charlie O’Reilly 13, Brett Maes 7, Jake Branham 7, Michael Manzardo 7, Tyson Riley 6, Ian Cochran 4, Wallace Squibb 2