In an effort to disrupt third-seeded Bishop LeBlond's offensive rhythm and prevent Friday's district semifinal game from slipping further away, Maryville head coach Mike Kuwitzky decided it was time to ramp up the pressure.
Mid-way through the third quarter, the veteran head coach turned top on-ball defender Treyton Burch loose on LeBlond's stable of point guards.
The move had the desired effect and facilitated a 49-43 comeback win over the Golden Eagles at Grace Gymnasium that advanced No. 2 seed Maryville back into the Class 3 District 16 finals for a rematch with top-seeded Cameron Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Down seven points with under three minutes left in the third quarter, Maryville outscored LeBlond 22-9 the rest of the way and 16-7 in the fourth quarter.
Once Maryville extended its defense, LeBlond turned it over 10 times and had significant trouble even getting the ball past mid-court where Burch was there waiting to wreak havoc.
"I thought the pressure bothered them a little bit especially in that stretch where we were getting some steals," said Kuwitzky. "Burch played a tremendous game on defense. His pressure was good and everybody else did, too. That was a big part of it was the pressure we put on them."
Trailing by three entering the fourth quarter, Maryville (19-7) scored the first eight points and held LeBlond scoreless for over four minutes.
The Hounds took the lead for good on a wing three by Jonathan Baker with 5:34 left, and then pressured LeBlond into four consecutive turnovers.
Two of those led to free throw line trips for Tyler Kenkel and Kyle Leslie. Another resulted in a break-away layup by Burch to make it 41-36.
"I think once we were down us seniors knew it could be our last game," said Burch. "We just picked it up and gave it all we got. I just kept trying to keep the pressure on them and get as many steals as I could."
LeBlond's Jacob Madden briefly ended the turnover spree with a bank shot that made it 41-38.
Leslie, who had all six of his points in the fourth quarter, made a clutch jumper over Madden that brought Maryville's lead back to five.
He added a free throw with 2:17 left that grew it to six.
LeBlond came as close as two points on a tough Madden three with 23.1 seconds left, but two Trent Nally free throws less than a second later restored Maryville's two-possession lead.
Down 47-43, LeBlond's Grant Gillaspie forced up a well-defended three that hit off the backboard, and the Golden Eagles also missed on a putback jumper that the Hounds rebounded.
Leslie stepped back to the line with 8.3 seconds left and nailed both shots to seal the game shut.
Page 2 of 3 - "I thought this was a team effort totally," said Kuwitzky. "I thought everybody on the team really played well. I thought we came through at pressure times and different people hit shots and free throws at critical moments."
Maryville improved to 2-1 against LeBlond this year and won for the fourth consecutive Friday during the month of February over a different MEC opponent.
This was the Hounds' third straight win overall and fifth in the last six games.
The Hounds lost the last meeting to LeBlond 48-35 in St. Joseph that came a week after a 53-52 overtime win over the Golden Eagles in first round of the Cameron Tournament.
"I think the difference in the game was Maryville pressured us out of our offense a little bit higher than we wanted to," said LeBlond head coach Greg Kastner. "I don't think the first two games they did that. If they did, I think we were able to handle it a little bit better. Tonight, we just didn't. That just took us out of our rhythm offensively."
LeBlond (12-11) made two more field goals in the game, but was eaten alive by a huge free throw disparity in the second half.
Maryville attempted 20 of its 22 free throws in the final two quarters and finished 16-22, while the Eagles were only 4-4 and never reached the bonus in either half.
"They got to the bonus quicker than we did and made all their shots," said Kastner. "When you hit every free throw, it's hard to come back."
A 90 percent free throw shooter on the year, Baker hit all six of his free throws and finished with a team-high 14 points.
He had eight during a brief third quarter stretch and 11 in the second half.
Burch finished with 10 points, with nine coming on three first half three-pointers. Nally had nine points (seven in the first half) and Kenkel netted eight.
Madden led all scorers in the game with 15 points. Derek Gallagher nailed four three's in the first three quarters to finish with 12 points. Gillaspie added eight.
All three half had six points in a brisk first half that took all of 25 minutes real time.
In an first quarter dominated by both offenses, Baker and Burch each hit three's, while Nally scored three consecutive baskets in one stretch.
The Hounds held separate three-point leads, but couldn't extend either one.
With the game tied at 13, Maryville scored off a Gallagher turnover right before the first quarter buzzer to lead by two.
The Hounds and Eagles swapped three's to begin the second quarter scoring.
LeBlond pulled even with Maryville twice before Burch's third three of the half made it 23-20.
Page 3 of 3 - A baseline jumper by Gillaspie in the final 10 seconds reduced Maryville's halftime lead to 23-22.
The Eagles started the third quarter by hitting four of their first five shots, including a pair of Gallagher three's.
LeBlond stretched its lead to five on the second one and two Madden free throws made it 32-25 with 3:47 left.
Quiet up to this point, Baker scored Maryville's next eight points, with six of those coming at the foul line.
His final two pulled the Hounds within a point at 34-33.
LeBlond scored the final basket of the quarter to bring a 36-33 lead into the fourth.
With the use of their pressure defense, the Hounds took over the game in the fourth quarter, setting up a third encounter with Cameron who beat fourth-seeded Lawson 52-39 later in the night.
Maryville lost both regular season meetings to the Dragons 47-44 and 53-42 in Cameron's home gym.
The Dragons have also beaten Maryville in districts each of the past two years.
"We know we got to bring our 'A' game for sure," said Burch. "We've played with them our whole lives, so we know how to do it. We just got to go out there and prove it."