Sacred Heart sophomore Malik Hackett, a former Bueker Middle School teammate of the younger Owls, scored nine of his game-high 19 points during the fourth quarter of a 63-52 decision to begin his varsity career in the Sacred Heart Tournament at Sedalia.
Projected to start for the Marshall football team as a freshman, Hackett encountered some personal problems at the beginning of the school year which derailed those plans. However, he appears to be thriving in the parochial school environment, Gremlins head coach Steve Goodwin commenting on his good grades and attitude -- along with his key role on a Class 1 football quarterfinalist.
"Malik's a good player," noted MHS head coach Jason Varner. "He'll help any program out."
The Owls got off to a better start against Sacred Heart than they did a year ago, when they trailed by 10 points after the first quarter of a 71-49 loss. After sophomore Connor Cooley shot a pair of three-pointers over the Gremlins' zone defense, Goodwin switched to a man-to-man which blanked Marshall for over three minutes.
"We just didn't play team offense," Varner explained. "We were standing around, watching, waiting for somebody else to drive to the hole and make a play."
Senior Alex Maupin penetrated to put the Owls up 12-8 early in the second period, but Sacred Heart went on a 9-2 run as sophomore Chase Lyles beat the defense down the floor off a defensive rebound and freshman Riley Simmons scored twice in transition -- adding a free throw to the second bucket.
"We were too far off of them," Varner said. "We've got to be in guys and make them make mistakes. That's what we do."
The Gremlins took a six-point lead into the break and quickly added to it with a pair of baskets by sophomore Garrett Strange, but Marshall came back.
Junior Zach Glassmaker scored off the offensive glass, finished a baseline drive and then got out on the fast break on a Maupin steal. Maupin went coast-to-coast with a rebound and got another, feeding Ben Valencia for a breakaway to close the deficit to two points.
Another Glassmaker put-back and Maupin lay-up early in the final frame gave the Owls the lead. Sophomore Mason Kelchner made a reverse, but Glassmaker answered with a floater from the paint.
"Zach's a hustler. He's going to give you everything he's got every night," Varner said. "We've just got to all step up together and we've got to finish."
Lyles stroked a jumper from the elbow to snap a 44-44 tie with 4:30 left, then Hackett was left open to bury three bombs within two minutes to put Sacred Heart up, 55-46.
"That's not what we designed in practice," Varner admitted. "We weren't supposed to leave him open."
Valencia converted a stick-back with 2:11 left to cut the margin to seven points, but Marshall managed only one point over the next two minutes. The Gremlins (1-0) got second-chance goals from Kelchner and senior Adrian Gonzalez, while Strange made three of four charity shots to cap off a 17-point performance, to secure the victory.
Maupin wound up with 16 points and Glassmaker had 14, both collecting 10 rebounds, for the Owls (1-1) - who shot 35.5 percent from the field, including three of 23 from three-point range. They'll play two more tourney games this week, including Thursday's tilt against Grain Valley.
Varner said the focus will be on the basics.
"We've got to block out, we've got to pass the ball, we've got to move," he said. "We've just got to go back to fundamental basketball."