CHARLOTTE – Through three quarters of play in a critical Southwestern 4A battle on Jan. 31 at hostile Butler, Myers Park was struggling to overcome the Bulldogs size.
They had trailed much of the way to that point, although they did a pretty decent job on Butler’s 7-foot sophomore center Patrick Wessler. Wessler finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but he needed 20 shots to do it and he was the only Bulldog in double figures.
“His ability to face up is really difficult,” Myers Park coach Scott Taylor said of Wessler. “He does a really nice job of facing up, and you can’t affect his shot. On the block, if he gets deep position he’s going to score on most people just because of his size, so he’s a tough match-up.”
With Wessler and the Bulldogs controlling the pace of play, Taylor and the Mustangs went small against Butler in the fourth quarter, a decision that turned a one-point deficit to start the quarter to a comfortable 62-54 win that kept the Mustangs tied with Independence and Hickory Ridge atop the crowded Southwestern 4A race.
“We knew their size was hard to guard, so we decided to make them guard us and it gave us more options. The best thing it did was let us pressure the ball,” Taylor said. “We needed to be able to spread the court, so we went a little smaller than we usually play just trying to create a match-up problem somewhere along the way.”
The strategy worked as the Mustangs outscored Butler 25-15 in the decisive final frame.
Drake Maye had 18 points and 12 rebounds, but is always hustling and getting his hands in the passing lanes.
The big story of the night, and for a large chunk of the Mustangs success this year, is the play of junior Xavier McKelvy.
He scored a game-high 25 points to go with five rebounds and two blocked shots. McKelvy is averaging 15.3 points and five rebounds per game this season after averaging 4.9 points as a sophomore.
“He’s got a new level of confidence,” Taylor said. “He’s been starting to have success, and he’s starting to believe in things. He’s a good player. He has a way of being able to sneak through some tight gaps and his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim are pretty tough.”
Maye leads the team with 16.4 points and 11.1 rebounds, but the Alabama football commit looks effortless on the court and is a very long and athletic defender who checked Wessler part of the game.
“Drake plays hard and has a good time,” Taylor said. “He loves competing and I’m enjoying the opportunity to have him with us.”
While the Mustangs looked great against the Bulldogs, they broke their seven-game win streak on Feb. 4 with a 63-56 loss at Hickory Ridge.
McKelvy had 27 points and Maye added 20 in the losing effort, but the Mustangs were outscored 29-17 in the second and third quarters, proving to be the difference.
The loss was costly. It drops Myers Park (15-6, 8-3 conference) from a first-place tie with Hickory Ridge (17-4, 9-2) and Independence (14-7, 9-2).
The Mustangs will get their shot at redemption on Feb. 14 when they travel to Independence.
“Here we go,” Taylor said. “It’s what we expect. We have two more weeks with two of them on the road, so none of them are going to be easy.”