The Baer essentials
Slowing down Akron's high-scoring senior key for Meeker at state
The Meeker High School boys basketball team is facing a daunting task today. But they don’t mind.
The Cowboys, seeded sixth, will face a high-scoring Akron (No. 3) team today in the first round of the Class 2A state basketball tournament. Tip-off is set for 1:15 p.m. at CSU-Pueblo’s Massari Arena.
As one of the final eight teams, Meeker is looking forward to the challenge after missing the chance to go to state during the past few years.
“The last time we had a chance to go, we lost by two,” senior Jeremy Musgrave said. “I’m just going to play as hard as I can play. Might as well go out with a bang.”
The high-scoring swing man averaged 17.4 points per game, and scored 29 points in the regional semifinal win over Resurrection Christian last Friday.
Speaking of prolific scorers, the Cowboys will need to find a way to slow down Akron’s Brady Baer if they hope to advance to the state semifinals.
Baer averages 31 points a game and is only 30 points away from becoming the state’s all-time leading scorer, according to CHSAANow.com.
The 6-foot-2 senior had a high game of 55 points this year where he hit 11 3-pointers in the process.
Meeker doesn’t rely on one great player, but uses a blend of perimeter quickness and a pair of quality post players to get the job done.
For head coach Klark Kindler, who is in his 16th season with Meeker, the key to being successful in the tournament is pretty simple.
“We have to stay out of foul trouble, and we’re going to have to rebound,” he said.
The Cowboys had foul trouble in both of their regional tournament games, which also affected their rebounding. Both starting post players, sophomore Ty Dunham and junior Joe Newman, fouled out in the semifinal game, with Dunham also fouling out in the regional title game.
Musgrave (6-2), Newman (6-6) and Dunham (6-1) are the main rebounders for the Cowboys, and Dunham is the main scoring threat in the post. He put up a season-high 24 points in the semifinal win over Resurrection Christian.
One of the keys to Meeker’s success this season has been the play of point guard Raul Lopez. Like Musgrave, Lopez said getting to state after coming up short in the past was a big hurdle to overcome.
“It’s exciting. I’ve been in the program for three years, and we fell short twice. Getting this win is big,” he said after scoring 25 points in the double overtime win over Paonia on Saturday.
The junior’s slick ball handling, penetrating drives and good free-throw shooting has helped lead the Cowboys to state.
“We’re going to have to play with confidence,” Lopez said “It’s a big tournament, and there’s a lot of good teams. We’re really going to have to play as one.”
In the win over Resurrection Christian, the Cowboys faced a potent outside attack and were forced to guard the perimeter. They will have to do the same against Akron to try and impact the shooting of Baer.
But Akron, which averages 75 points per game, has more than just Baer. Junior Jared Clarkson averages 14 points per game, and 6-foot senior Garret Basler averages 11 points. All three players average more than six rebounds per game.
Kindler said defense has been one of Meeker’s strengths throughout the season.
“I think we play pretty good defense, and hopefully our defense will carry us (at state),” he said. “We’re also going to have to shoot the ball well.”
The Cowboys depend on Musgrave, Lopez and senior Dylan Mobley for the bulk of their outside shooting. The three have accounted for 79 3-pointers this season.
Ignacio, from the Durango area, is the lone unbeaten team in the 2A tournament. It comes in as the No. 1 seed with a 23-0 record.
This is the third time the Cowboys have reached the state tourney under Kindler. Meeker placed third in 2008.