McDonald County's girls couldn't overcome a slow start in a 49-34 road loss to Carl Junction on Monday night.
The Bulldogs (8-3) hit three quick 3-pointers and used their press to force turnovers as they raced to an 18-4 lead after the opening eight minutes.
The Lady Mustangs (1-10) pulled within five points twice in the second quarter, the last time on two free throws by junior forward Samara Smith to cut the deficit to 27-22. They got no closer.
Carl Junction led 30-22 at halftime and expanded the advantage to 41-27 after three.
But McDonald County's second-quarter surge might be a reason for optimism. The Lady Mustangs began breaking the press and playing with more confidence as they outscored the Bulldogs 18-12 during that span.
"We looked way improved," McDonald County coach Sean Crane said of the performance in the second quarter.
Smith, who battled foul trouble, finished with a team-high 12 points for the Lady Mustangs.
Sophomore Anna Clarkson was another bright spot for McDonald County, scoring seven points and providing a spark.
"Anna keeps getting better," Crane said.
Junior KateLynn Townsend added five points, and senior Addy Leach grabbed eight rebounds.
The Lady Mustangs return to action by playing host to Carthage tonight.