COLUMBIA — At first glance, with its sparkling new facilities, Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School seems beyond basic.
However, the same won't be said of the Trailblazers’ boys basketball team.
“We’re about fundamentals,” first-year coach Tyler Clark said.
Ninety minutes into Wednesday night's practice, the Trailblazers’ varsity and junior varsity squads continued to run layup and passing drills in their impressive new gymnasium. When the team scrimmaged later, Clark and his coaching staff's main emphasis was getting the important things right.
The team is in the middle of its first varsity season after going 19-9 in junior varsity competition last season. Clark plays down the record, though, noting the inconsistencies in JV scheduling and the unique situation of being a new school. Clark just wants to carry out the program’s mission of teaching the fundamentals while confidently preparing for the next game.
“We feel like we’re playing at a high level right now,” Clark said. “We try to get better every game.”
Tolton (8-9) is set to play its next game at 9 p.m. Thursday against Linn High School at the Southern Boone tournament in Ashland. The Wildcats bring a big, experienced roster into the game and are looking to redeem themselves after falling 54-42 to North Callaway in their tournament opener.
“They (Linn) run things through their two bigs,” Clark said. “We need to guard and make them take tough shots.”
Tolton is also looking for redemption after dropping its tournament opener Tuesday night in a 76-55 loss to Fatima, the tournament's top seed, despite an impressive opening half.
“That’s the best team I’ve seen all year,” Clark said. “They had a kid (Patrick Schnieders, 38 points) who went off in the first quarter. We went with them blow-for-blow for quite a bit of the game and just ran out of gas.”
Despite the setback, the Trailblazers aren’t ready to quit on the tournament, their final one before district play. Clark said if his team can execute its game plan and have its guards continue to contribute, it has a chance to continue playing in the tournament after Thursday.
“Our guard play has been key,” Clark said. “(Sophomore guard) Brennan Church didn’t have as many points as he’d been having, but he created a lot. (Sophomore guard) Wes Waterman has been playing with a lot of confidence lately, too.”