A burdensome flu season has led to frustration among many basketball coaches, including McFarland boys head coach Jeff Meinholdt.
His team was not at full strength when the Spartans traveled Feb. 7 to Rock Valley Conference opponent Evansville. Not only were two players not 100 percent because of illness, McFarland was missing two players with injuries and another due to a WIAA imposed suspension for committing two technical fouls.
The Blue Devils took advantage by opening a 27-13 halftime lead and cruising to a 52-34 win. Meinholdt said the shortage of manpower has had a negative impact on the Spartans.
“All these injuries and illnesses have dramatically affected our style of play and has messed with our rhythm on offense and defense,” Meinholdt said. “We are out of sync right now at both ends of the floor, and we need players to step up, whether it be more from our starters or someone off our bench.”
McFarland showed signs of life to start the second half by using a 7-0 run to reduce the Blue Devils’ lead to 27-20. Meinholdt said the team forced turnovers and got some easy baskets by using full-court defensive pressure.
But Evansville’s Aaron Anderson scored eight straight points, while the Spartans missed two free throws and committed four turnovers.
“We could never recover from that,” Meinholdt said. “Shooting 28 percent will not keep you in any game, either.”
Junior Blake Kes led McFarland with 12 points including two shots from the 3-point line. Seth Maag led the Blue Devils with 17 points.
Meinholdt said using a depleted player roster is not easily, especially when going up against Evansville, which has an overall record of 10-7 and a 7-6 mark in the Rock Valley.
“It’s difficult because we haven’t had a consistent rotation due to injuries and illnesses. We hope that somewhere soon it clicks for our some of our bench players playing more minutes than usual,” Meinholdt said. “I know it sounds like I’m using excuses, but there are just some things we can’t control, and those two things are what’s causing poor play.”
The Spartans, which fell to 9-8 overall and 7-6 in conference, host Whitewater on Thursday, Feb. 13, in another league game with tip off scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Big Foot 69, Spartans 67
Ravaged by illness and injuries, the host Spartans build a 31-23 halftime lead against Rock Valley Conference opponent Big Foot on Feb. 4. But the Chiefs came back in the second half and knocked off McFarland 69-67. Big Foot outscored shorthanded McFarland 46-36 after the break to earn the victory.
McFarland won the Dec. 12 first matchup between the teams, 80-54, but Meinholdt said he was missing players in this second game.
“In the first meeting, we were healthy with zero injuries or illnesses,” Meinholdt said. “This time around was a completely different story because of the injuries and illnesses. When four of your top eight players are out, it makes it tough on everyone. Events like these are completely out of our control, so it’s unfortunate we were not at full strength and have not been for the past month or so. We had some players do everything they could, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Senior Max Hanson led McFarland with 20 points, junior Pete Pavelec hit four shots from the arc and scored 14, and junior Jackson Werwinski put in 11.
Big Foot had four players in double figures including Mason Bennett with 17, Jack Gillingham with 15, Tyler Wilson with 12 and Gus Foster with 10.