MEAD — On paper, it was expected to be an easy win Thursday for the Mead boys basketball team facing the Fort Morgan Mustangs in Tri-Valley League play. The Mavericks entered the game on a 15-game win streak and were sitting at the top of the league standings. As for Fort Morgan, it had a 5-15 record and was sitting near the bottom of the standings.
A fast start and good defensive night made for an easy 69-32 win for the Mavericks to push their current win streak to 16.
“It was a test to keep our focus,” Mead’s Will Maher said. “We did well. We struggled against some teams that haven’t done as well, but tonight we played well and played together.”
Maher came out strong from the start to lead the Mavericks with 15 points in the first quarter, all of which came from 3-point shots. The senior went 5-for-5 from behind the arc and brought the energy to the gym early with his shooting.
“It was pretty fun,” Maher said. “I wish I could have kept it up some, but I was glad to see everyone else hitting, too.”
The hot shooting from Maher helped Mead score 23 points in the first quarter, but it was their defense that carried them and put the game out of reach right away.
Jax Wilke, who only scored four points in the win, made his presence felt in the paint to contest and block shots from Fort Morgan inside. Perimeter players also forced contested shots and forced a high volume of turnovers in the full-court press. The half-court defense was also stout and flying around in the passing lanes and to open players to get a hand in their face.
Mead built a 32-8 lead going into the half with more shutdown defense in the second quarter. Defense remained the theme in the third to put the Mavericks up by as many as 30 before head coach Darin Reese started to pull his starters. A quick flurry in the fourth forced the running clock and Mead was able to empty its bench the rest of the game.
Getting the win was important, but the Mavericks have been stressing the details over the last couple of weeks to elevate their game in time to make a run in the Class 4A state tournament.
“We’re working to get better and staying humble,” Maher said. “We have gotten some attention, but we just want to get better. The playoffs come around and that’s our goal: to do well in March.”
Maher led the Mavericks with 20 points and Nick Jacobs also reached double figures with 10. Ten different players scored in the win. Meanwhile, Fort Morgan had no player reach double figures and was led by Fernando Marquez with nine.
The focus remains getting better for the Mavericks as they control their own destiny to win the Tri-Valley League title with three games remaining in the regular season. The final road game of the season comes this Saturday against Roosevelt before the Mavericks face Erie on Tuesday and Holy Family in a huge rematch next Thursday on their home floor.
“We still have some big games coming up, so we hope we can shoot well in those ones,” Maher said. “I think we need to keep our focus and just prepare for Saturday versus Roosevelt.”
Mead 69, Fort Morgan 32
At Mead HS
FORT MORGAN (5-16, 2-12)
Fernando Marquez 2 4-4 9, Nick Norris 3 0-0 6, Andres Dubray 2 0-0 5, Isaac Linker 2 0-0 4, David Sarinana 2 0-0 4, Simon Graff 1 0-0 2, Nick Beltran 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 4-4 32.
MEAD (16-3, 13-0)
Will Maher 7 0-0 20, Nick Jacobs 3 3-6 10, Caleb Ayers 3 0-0 9, David Wilhelm 2 2-3 6, Jacob Bartholomew 2 2-2 6, Trey Ward 2 0-0 6,Jax Wilke 2 0-0 4, Elijah Knudsen 1 0-0 3, KJ Jacobs 0 3-5 3, Jacob McGill 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 12-21 69.
Score by quarters:
Fort Morgan (5-16, 2-12) 4 4 15 9 — 32
3-point field goals — Fort Morgan(2): Marquez, Dubray; Mead(14): Maher 6, Ayers 3, Jacobs 2, Ward 2, Knudsen. Total fouls — Fort Morgan 13, Mead 6. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — Ward.