When the Francis Howell basketball team lost the likes of point guard Daylan Dalton, small forward Matt Simmons and forward Patrick Schulte to graduation after last year’s run to the Class 5 state tournament, a definite dropoff in scoring and success on the floor was expected.
But Matt Schark made sure that did not happen. Schark, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior forward has been the catalyst for the Vikings, helping them surge to a red-hot 13-1 start as they enter mid-January.
Schark has been making life miserable for opposing defenses this winter thanks to his 21.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game average.
He enters the week ranked 10th in the Bi-State area in scoring and is enjoying his best season yet on the floor as a senior.
Francis Howell coach Kurt Jacob is glad to have Schark’s leadership of a club comprised of less experienced players.
“He’s a four-year varsity player and naturally, he’s the guy that kind of takes the leadership role. He’s done great with that,” Jacob said. “He does it more by example because he works so hard in practice and gets it done in games. He shares the ball and just wants the team to succeed. He doesn’t care too much about individual accolades.”
Schark’s calling card on the floor has been his scoring touch on the offensive end.
He was one of the Vikings’ top scorers in the last two seasons. The offense has primarily run through him. He has embraced his increased role and is expected to excel in the early part of the season.
“We wanted to be able to start strong, and personally I wanted to do more for the team to get my teammates going and get my teammates ready [to succeed],” Schark said.
Schark has a solid outside shot, hitting 33% from behind the three-point line. But he does his best work down on the baseline, posting up defenders and knocking down easy shots and getting to the foul line for free-throws.
“Just [using my] physicality, I’m always trying to be tough on the other team and try to get to the rim,” Schark said.
“Matt is smart and strong. He understands how to use the body [around the rim],” Jacob said. “He’ll give his teammates a lot of credit too because you know they find him.”
While scoring has been Schark’s main asset, the most improved part of his game from last season to this has been his growth as a defender.
“He’s become better defensively and now understands how important it is to play defense. He’s become one of our better defensive players, too,” Jacob said.
Schark agreed. “Yeah, defense has always been like a little struggle for me so this year I really tried to step it up agility-wise, trying to block shots more and have been feeling a lot more skilled in it this year.”
Schark, who is a corner infielder on Coach Tony Perkins’ Vikings baseball team, is planning on playing baseball next year at Jefferson College. The first baseman/third baseman hit a blazing .402 last year as a junior.
Before the weather warms up and he gets back on the diamond for his final season, he wants to help his Vikings teammates go as far as they can this winter.
The Vikings won the Kaminsky Classic Tournament in Joplin last weekend for the third straight season and hope to make another deep playoff run just like last year’s state tournament team, but Schark is not letting his teammates get too big-headed or full of themselves.
“Win every game one at a time,” Schark said. ” I think we’re just looking at one game at a time. We’re not looking too far ahead so one game at a time will be good for us.”