College Heights meets Class 2 power Hartville for state quarterfinal

Mar. 1—It's no secret that Saturday's Class 2 state quarterfinal game against Hartville will be a tough matchup for College Heights. The game is set for 2 p.m. at Ozark Christian College in Joplin.

Hartville's senior group watched its upperclassmen take home a Class 3 state championship during their freshman year in 2021. They returned to the Final Four of Class 2 last year as juniors.

And in the 13 years that head coach Brett Reed has been leading the program, the Eagles have won 11 district championships.

That's not to say CHCS doesn't have its own line of success as of late. The Cougars have won a district title in three of their last four seasons but have never gone past this stage: state quarterfinals.

"It's going to be our biggest test yet," CHCS head coach Stephen Harrel said. "They're a really good team. They're averaging about 6'2" in height for their starting five and can shoot it. They're very precise about how they do things, and they're never in a hurry."

Hartville is sitting at 26-2 and only lost two games to Class 5 Willard and Class 4 Logan-Rogersville — both by 8 points.

"These kids are aware of the past success we've had. They want to be a part of that and they want to write their own story," Reed said.

College Heights is 19-10 and 7-3 in February.

"They're a team that's playing extremely well right now. They're shooting the ball well," Reed said. "I think what I've been impressed with is they work really hard. I think their coach has done a good job. ... They're really good up and down the floor, and they really crash the glass."

The Cougars will look to control the pace of play in this contest. Harrel says his guys will look to speed it up as much as possible in hopes of making a team that is usually playing at a slow pace speed things up and get out of their comfort zone. But he said they will look to slow it down when needed as well.

"It's imperative that we control the pace of the game," Harrel said. "That's our main objective to control the pace and limit them to one shot. They love to crash and get extra shots."

Caleb Quade is the leader statistically for the Cougars as he averages about 20 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. But there's also depth behind him as plenty of players chip in on a night-to-night basis. Sometimes that is Colsen Dickens. Sometimes it's Jayce Walker or Adam Stanton. Lately it has even been Jadon Smith or Ben Schumacher.

"It's been a true blessing. Especially when you have so many young kids and ones that haven't played much varsity," Harrel said. "You just try to groom them. I give a testament to my assistant coach (Josh Quade). He had the idea of spreading out our rotation a little more early in the season."

From that point on, Quade took on the job of substitutions in most instances.

A leader for Hartville is senior Jalon Cryer, who averages 16 ppg. But Reed added that his team is balanced with four other guys hovering around 10 ppg. Cryer was an all-state selection last year. Grant Culver is another senior on the team and is a key to the defense with his length and is one who scores in double figures often. The Eagles' third senior is Logan Simpson, who suffered a torn ACL back in December and has missed most of the season.

Hartville averages right at 60 ppg, and College Heights is just a shade above that at 60.6. The Eagles are a bit stingier on defense allowing just 38.3 ppg while the Cougars allow 48.4.

As for playing in a different gym, Harrel has had this to say to his team:

"The only talk is the same talk the man gave in 'Hoosiers,'" he said. "The goal is the same height. The ball is still the same size and the same color. The only difference is we don't have to travel. We still have home-court advantage. We will still have a bunch of fans coming out to support us. Our student section will be riled up and ready to go. We just have to make sure we put the little orange thing in the hole like we do at our own house."

Meanwhile, the Eagles will be making a two-hour drive to OCC.

Being back in the quarterfinals for the Cougars means holding up a legacy that began a few seasons ago with former players and coach Eric Johnson.