Perhaps the biggest play for the McDonald County Mustangs was a miss by the Neosho Wildcats.
McDonald County scored the first eight points in the second half and never trailed the rest of the way to beat Neosho, 50-44, on Jan. 26 in front of a jam-packed MCHS gym.
"This was a good team win," said coach Kyle Fields. "Honestly we didn't play really well and we didn't shoot it very good, but we got baskets when we needed them. We got the ball inside when we needed to get the ball inside. Our defense was pretty good and we worked hard. I am proud of all of our guys."
But the key play of the game might have been when Neosho's Brady Wise had a chance to put the Wildcats ahead with a breakaway dunk with less than a minute left in the game, but the 6-0 senior with springs in his legs mistimed his leap and instead of a rim-rattling slam, it was a missed layup leaving the Mustangs with a 40-39 lead.
Boston Dowd, Cooper Reece and Peyton Barton then combined to hit 10 out 12 free throws in the final 55 seconds to help the Mustangs pull away for their seventh win of the season against 12 losses.
"We kind of gutted it out there late," Fields said. "I thought there were some big possessions that shifted the game one way or another. We hit our free throws late after missing all five we shot the first half. I was just proud of our toughness late in the game."
Neosho led 10-9 after the first quarter that saw seven lead changes in the first eight minutes alone. The second quarter mirrored the first with four more lead changes before the Wildcats took an 18-17 lead at intermission.
Reece hit a short jumper to start the third quarter to give the Mustangs the lead for good. Blake Gravette followed with a three-pointer before Reece and Tim Shields scored from the block to give McDonald County a 25-18 lead.
Neosho closed to 33-29 entering the fourth quarter before Reece hit an old-fashioned three-point play off an offensive rebound with 5:41 left to give the Mustangs a 38-32 lead. Neosho's Cole Seward hit a jumper, but Shields got free for McDonald County to stretch the lead back to six with 3:40 left in the game.
But McDonald county missed its next four shots, allowing the Wildcats to close to 40-39, setting the stage for Wise's missed opportunity to put Neosho on top and the Mustangs' clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Reece finished with 15 points and Shields 14 to lead the Mustangs. Gravette added nine points, followed by Dowd with eight and Barton with four.
Wise finished with 21 points to lead all scorers.
"It was a great atmosphere with the band, our student section and the stands full of Mustang fans," Fields said. "I think our guys fed off it late when we needed it."
Neosho claimed a 60-28 win in the junior-varsity game. The Wildcats led just 25-18 at halftime before outscoring the Mustangs 35-10 in the second half.
Koby McAlister scored nine points to lead McDonald County. Saul Garcia added seven points, followed by Cade Smith with six and Cale Adamson and Ben Mora with three each.
The Neosho freshman added a 50-27 win. McDonald County was led by Jackson Clarkson with 10 points, followed by Parker Harris with five points, Ireal Marcos and Kaiden Campbell three each, Logan Renner, Damian Martinez and Carlos Sosa two each.
McDonald County jumped on Carthage early and steadily pulled away for a 56-36 win on Jan. 23 at MCHS.
The Mustangs led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter and stretched the margin to 31-15 at halftime and 45-26 after three quarters.
"We played well from start to finish," Fields said. "We got off to a good start and kept our foot on the gas and didn't let off it the entire night. We defended really well and shot it well at times. Everything was clicking."
Barton scored 18 points and Reece 17 to lead McDonald County. Rounding out the scoring for the Mustangs were Dowd with five points, Shield and Cole DelosSantos four each, Gravette and Bucky Harrell three each and Drew Landers two.
Carthage claimed a 46-35 win in the junior-varsity game. The teams were tied 21-21 at halftime before the Tigers used a 25-14 edge in the second half for the win.
McDonald County was led by Tae-Shawn Alik with 10 points, followed by McAlister with eight points, Walker Keith and Colliar Gottfried six each, Garcia and Dylan Allison two each and Ben Mora one.
McDonald County dropped a 46-21 decision in the freshman game.
Harris scored eight points to lead McDonald County, followed by Clarkson with six points, Marcos three and Tyler Nelson and Martinez two each.
McDonald County improved to 7-12 for the season heading into its Jan. 30 game at Cassville. The Mustangs then travel to East Newton on Feb. 2Sports on 02/01/2018
Print Headline: Mustangs Beat Wildcats in Packed House