Twenty-one may be good in blackjack, but it wasn't so good for the McDonald County High School basketball team.
Carl Junction, with 6-7 Will Bebee and 6-6 Trent Smith both scoring 21 points, beat McDonald County 59-41 March 1 in the semifinals of the Missouri Class 4 District 10 Basketball Tournament at Cassville High School.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-3 lead to start the game and stretched the margin to 13-4 at the end of the first quarter.
Carl Junction's Nakoa Warren scored five points and Smith had four early in the second quarter to give the Bulldogs a 22-11 lead before Blake Gravette shot the Mustangs back in the game.
Gravette hit a short runner and two consecutive three-pointers to close out the first half to help McDonald County cut the deficit to 26-19 at intermission.
Tim Shields scored the first basket of the third quarter to shorten the Carl Junction lead to 26-21, but the Mustangs got stuck on that unlucky 21 number for the next four minutes as Carl Junction scored the next eight points to stretch its lead to 34-21.
Gravette hit another trey late in the quarter for McDonald County's only other points in the period as Carl Junction took a 37-24 lead into the fourth period.
A three by Gravette, a steal and basket by Peyton Barton and a short jumper by Boston Dowd in the first two minutes of the fourth period cut Carl Junction's lead to 37-31.
After the Mustangs missed a couple of chances to cut the margin to four, Bebee hit from the block before Shields sank a pair of free throws with 4:16 left to make the score 39-33.
But the final four minutes were all Carl Junction. Smith hit a three-pointer on the Bulldogs' next possession, and Bebee hit a basket and two free throws to help Carl Junction build a 48-33 lead with 2:51 left.
Shields made two more free throws with 2:41 left, but Carl Junction outscored the Mustangs 11-5 in the final two minutes, hitting nine of 10 free throws down the stretch.
"We weren't able to hit some shots early that we normally make, and in games like this you have to hit shots," said coach Kyle Fields. "We gave up some easy baskets early and dug ourselves a hole. Blake (Gravette) shot it well for a while there and got us back in the game. We cut it to five to start the second half and then couldn't score. We made a run in the fourth quarter, but couldn't get over the hump."
Gravette finished with 14 points to lead McDonald County, while Shields had nine and Cooper Reece had eight. Rounding out the scoring for the Mustangs were Dowd with four points and Barton, Cole DelosSantos and Cade Smith two each.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on Smith (Trent Smith) for the most part." Fields said. "Peyton (Barton) did a good job guarding him, but we just weren't able to hit some baskets when we really needed to. Still, it's a two-possession game about halfway through the fourth quarter. You know, we are right there. If the ball bounces a little bit differently and goes our way, who knows what happens."
McDonald County finishes its second season under Fields with an 11-16 overall record, including a 4-3 mark in the Big 8 Conference.
"I am proud of the kids this year," Fields said. "We got better. I thought we took some steps forward. This is still a process and, for the ones coming back, I hope this fuels and motivates them for the future. There is still a lot of work to be done."
The game was the last in their high school careers for five McDonald County seniors. Shields, DelosSantos, Barton, Bucky Harrell and Andrew Landers will be lost to graduation come next year.
"I am very proud of the five seniors," Fields said. "I really enjoyed my two years with them. Four out of the five are four-year players and I really appreciate their commitment to the program. They are good kids and I wish them all the luck in the future. They all will be successful on whatever path they choose to follow."Sports on 03/08/2018
Print Headline: Mustangs' Season Ends In District Tournament