The We > Me philosophy, meaning team play trumps individual play, is the philosophy McFarland High School boys basketball coach Jeff Meinholdt wants his squad to follow in the 2019-20 season.
It could take a little time for the Spartans to gel as a team after they lost some key players to graduation including 6-foot-6 forward Trevon Chislom, who led the 2018-19 Spartans with a 23.1 scoring average, sharp-shooting forward Daniel Toennies, and guards Carson Werwinski and Luke Witter.
The Spartans lost their season opener Nov. 30 at non-conference Stoughton 65-52, but Meinholdt saw some positive signs from the team.
“I thought our intensity and energy were solid for the first game,” Meinholdt said. “I think we’re still trying to find our identity on offense, but I thought we had a ton of open looks at the basket.”
McFarland’s defense was also solid for much of the game. Stoughton led 30-24 at halftime, but key stops on defense helped the Spartans fight back and reduce the lead to one.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, Stoughton had a hot shooting night led by 6-foot-1 junior guard Cael McGee, who led all scorers with 17 points. Six-foot-4 senior Adam Hobson contributed 16 points.
“They shot the ball very well, and when some of those shots are contested and they go in, there’s not much we can do from there,” Meinholdt said. “We were able to take them out of rhythm early, but we could never sustain that edge.”
Blake Kes led the Spartans with 13 points, Pete Pavalec added 11 points with two shots from beyond the 3-point arc, and Jackson Werwinski put in 10.
But Meinholdt suggested McFarland lost the game at the foul line as the Vikings were fouled 24 times by the Spartans and made nine more trips to the free-throw line. Both Kes and Ethan Nichols fouled out for McFarland.
“Any time you lose the free-throw battle, that hurts and just adds to things we need to work on,” Meinholdt said. “We always have a goal of getting to the free-throw line more than the other team, and we didn’t do that. We had some silly fouls that we will clean up moving forward.”
McFarland hit 12-of-20 attempts from the charity stripe including 8-of-10 by Kes. However, Stoughton went to the line 29 times and made 20 with McGee sinking 9-of-10 and Hobson 6-of-7.
McFarland, which began its Rock Valley Conference schedule this week, takes on Clinton in its home opener Friday, Dec. 6, with tipoff scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Meinholdt said if McFarland hopes to contend for the conference title, it needs to abide by the “team first” philosophy.
“We need to keep competing and keep buying into our We > Me philosophy we’ve established this season,” Meinholdt said. “It’s a long journey through our conference, and we will be better as we head into December.”