Whether it was the large crowd in attendance, the buzz in the air surrounding homecoming festivities, or just anticipation building from not having played in 10 days, the Neosho Lady Wildcats showed little, if any, rust on Friday.
With their last game having been played on Jan. 15, the Lady Wildcats needed little time to find their legs as they wowed the home crowd with solid defense and went on to down the Lady Mustangs 42-23.
That defense, led by Emily Harrell and Whitney Wise, helped hold the Lady Mustangs to just four points in the second quarter and two in the third. In fact, they didn’t allow McDonald County to reach double figures in any quarter as they spent most of the night in a man-to-man set.
“I thought we did a very good job defensively tonight,” Neosho coach Lance Robbins said on Friday. “I was very pleased with the way Emily Harrell and Whitney Wise guarded Preslea Reece, who in my estimation is one of the better players in Southwest Missouri. They did a very good job holding her to six points.”
Wise also led the team with 10 points offensively, seven of which came in the second half. Morgan Rathmann and Morgan Rogers both followed with nine points apiece while Chelsey Henry finished with seven, Corea Lowery five and Brooke Stauffer two.
“We were ready to get out and play,” Robbins said. “I thought we were a little anxious and had some silly turnovers, but that’s stuff we can correct.”
The score was close in the first quarter as the Lady Mustangs briefly held an 8-6 lead before the Lady Wildcats closed with a pair of baskets to take a 10-8 lead. McDonald County tied it at 10 on a Danielle Pierce jumper to start the second quarter, but the game would soon get out of hand.
After Pierce tied it, the Lady Wildcats (7-9) went on a 14-0 run before a Cendy Garcia basket closed the first half with Neosho on top, 23-12. The rough stretch that started at the end of the first quarter for McDonald County would continue well into the second half as they were outscored 29-7 from the end of the first quarter to the middle of the fourth.
Defensively, the Lady Wildcats were lights-out.
“I thought our team defense was solid tonight,” Robbins said. “We played man-to-man almost the entire game … but I thought everybody did a good job of finding where the basketball was at.”
Sarah Rickman led the Lady Mustangs with seven points while Reece had six, Pierce four and Garcia, Kali Hodson and Alisha Ballard finished with two each.
Both Neosho and McDonald County are back in action at the Seneca Tournament on Monday.