ANDERSON -- A slow start and defense of struggles made it hard for the McDonald County Mustangs to keep pace with Joplin Eagles as they fell 70-45 in the opening game of the 2023-24 season for both teams Tuesday at Mustang Arena.
"So kudos to Joplin. They came out, they hit a lot of shots," McDonald County coach Brandon Joines said after the game. "They were ready to go and jump passing lanes and had a lot of energy. So that's a great job by them. But from our side, you know, I got a lot of conditioning time in for people. And that's kind of where our focus went on it."
The Eagles held a commanding 33-18 lead at halftime, and their tough defense caused problems for the Mustangs all half. They jumped out fast on defense, and MCHS sophomore Cael Carlin did well in his first game running point guard, but the Eagles' defense was seasoned and he struggled a little.
Destyn Dowd led the Mustangs with 15 points and two rebounds and Joshua Pacheco chipped in 13 points and five rebounds in the loss.
Joines knew going into the game it might be a struggle, but the players gave it their best effort Tuesday night.
"We knew there was a chance our legs and conditioning wasn't going to quite be where it needs to be yet," Joines said about the conditioning. "We've had plus/minus counting Thanksgiving break and all and I let the football guys kind of have a little extra time, you know -- we had four practices going into this."
The Mustangs face Shiloh Christian out of Springdale, Ark., next Monday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m.