The Madison-Plains High School boys basketball team has won more games this season than it has in the last three combined, but as second-year coach Joe Stewart’s team looks to put the wraps on its regular season he can’t help but think about how far his team has come since his arrival.
“The biggest difference between this year and last year is the comfort level with the expectations we have for this team,” Stewart said. “There’s a system in place that’s no longer new to them. Because of that this group has been able to find a flow.”
The Golden Eagles (12-8) are trending in the right direction at just the right time of year. They closed out the home portion of their schedule with a commanding 78-43 defeat of Delaware Christian Tuesday, Feb. 14.
The team however will likely be on the road for the remainder of the season. Plains will play at Northeastern Friday, Feb. 17 and then will travel to neighboring London for a Saturday, Feb. 18 non-league date. Both games are slated for 7:30 p.m.
The Golden Eagles received the 11th seed in the upcoming Division III Central District tournament and will play at No. 9 Northridge Feb. 27 in their postseason opener. The winner of the first-round tilt will then play at No. 8 Centerburg March 1.
“If you just look at the records, we’re seeded right where you’d expect us to be seeded,” Stewart said. “Of the 18 teams in our district 13 of them have winning records which tells you how tough of a district we’re playing in.”
The Madison-Plains High School turnaround this season actually started a year ago when Stewart arrived on campus. Known for rebuilding programs at previous coaching gigs, the longtime bench boss began to build a winning culture even though the number of wins weren’t necessarily there until this season.
“This is just such a good group of guys,” the coach said. “But this started last year with that team. They just had a positive attitude and continued to work hard every day even though they didn’t see the results in our record. Our seniors were here all summer long, they really put in the work to get better.”
Now that the wins are here, the vibe surrounding the team is an infectious cloud of happiness.
“There are just some intangible qualities about working hard,” the coach said. “These guys have worked so hard and are finding ways to win close games. We’ve played a lot of them and even when we’re not winning them our guys are learning from them. It’s just a fun bunch to be around.
“The best quality of this team, as much as any group I’ve ever coached. They embrace the day, embraced the lesson and they’ve improved because of it.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.