Opening up the first round of the 59th Neosho Holiday Classic, the Neosho Lady Wildcats managed to overcome a full-court press for the majority of the game to beat the Forrest City (Ark.) Lady Mustangs, 75-64, on Thursday at the Neosho Middle School gymnasium.
The Lady Mustangs, who dropped to 5-4, had a 6-0 early advantage against the stunned Lady Wildcats (5-3) largely because of turnovers as a result of an energetic press.
Neosho quickly figured out how to pass and dribble the ball through the aggressive defense and found its rhythm offensively, putting up 24 points in the first quarter. The Lady Wildcats then took a 40-30 lead at halftime.
In the previous game at the middle school gym, the Neosho JV squad was thumped by the East Newton Lady Patriots, 77-9.
Lindey Broyles led East Newton with 14 points. Skyelar Long led the JV Lady Wildcats with four.
The third quarter mirrored the first half for the Neosho varsity in that Forrest City caused many turnovers, but struggled to make crucial shots.
The Lady Mustangs shrank the lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as they could get.
“I thought we played well in spurts,” said Neosho coach Lance Robbins. “It’s tough to get in a type of flow, because after missed shots and even when they score they are pressing. It’s hard to take control of the game.”
Forrest City had a deep and enthusiastic bench, who would chant, “D-up!” over and over again, encouraging their defensive players, especially when they were in a two-man trap.
“We didn’t even run our offense,” added Robbins. “We had many 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 situations and we had players who made plays.”
Indeed, they did. Chelsea Henry had 20 points for the Lady Wildcats, while teammates Brooke Stauffer and Morgan Rogers each added 12. Shekelle McGowan led the Lady Mustangs with 20 and Takayla Burke added 12.
“We played them (Forrest City) last summer at a team camp, so we had an idea of what they were going to do defensively,” said Robbins. “These kids play really hard. They had a five hour bus ride up here and to jump out on the floor and have as good of a start as they did, they did a good job.”
Moving Henry from the post to the guard position this year was a key decision that paid dividends for Robbins and the Lady Wildcats.
“She (Henry) handled the ball primarily for us today,” Robbins said. “She had a size advantage. We isolated her one-on-one against the press, and we were able to throw it up to her and she was able to take care of the basketball. When she wasn’t open, to finish her own shots, she was able to get other people shots. She did a very good job today.”
Page 2 of 2 - Neosho will face Carthage at 5 p.m. today. Forrest City will take on Seneca at 10 a.m.