Two teams who have improved since meeting in the beginning of December will square up again in Saturday afternoon’s Class 4 playoff opener in Marshfield.

“I would say this is a year where we have really good student sections and really good energy,” said Jays head coach Adam Carpenter. “I think the guys enjoy playing in front of their friends and it’s a year where we definitely need every boost we can get.” 

The Blue Jays lost 50-40 to Hillcrest on Dec. 2 at the 86th Clever Invitational Tournament. It was the second defeat in a string of 11 that opened the season. Since then, the Jays are using a number of different players in their rotation and have gone 7-5 since beating Camdenton on Jan. 16.

“I think both groups have changed a lot, and our personnel is different,” said Carpenter. “Peyton is playing closer to his potential which will really help us. I feel like just from watching film on them they are shooting the ball better and they have also had some really big wins recently. I think both teams have improved, and it should be a competitive game.”

The team’s defense has been a catalyst for improvement. Before picking up their first victory Marshfield hadn’t held a team under 45 points. Since then, they’ve done it seven times, including in Monday’s 78-41 win over the Mustangs.

“I feel like the second half of the season our defense has been better just simply because the guys have worked on it for a long period of time and they are comfortable,” said Carpenter. “Just like with any defense, the guys are understanding their rotations so the only time that it is inconsistent is when guys aren’t playing really really hard and active. As long as we are playing hard and doing our job we are pretty solid.” 

Drew Cromer, senior, led the team Monday night with a total of 25 points. Peyton McBride, sophomore, contributed 16 points along with Owen Curley, sophomore, scoring 13. 

“We just need to treat the district games in little segments and do a better job of competing every single trip instead of just worrying about the score or worrying about the outcome,” said Carpenter. “I think we are still taking some trips off and kind of playing really hard and active in spurts. I would say every single time as a coach, as a bench and as players we need to compete hard.” 

Following the win over the Mustangs, Marshfield wrapped up its regular season with a senior night game Tuesday against Monett.

The Blue Jays tip off against the Hornets at 4:30 p.m. If victorious, they'll play again in the semifinals against Bolivar on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Jays last won a district title in 2014 in Bolivar when they defeated Hillcrest in the final, 75-73. 

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