Playing their first home game of the season, the Neosho Lady Wildcats improved to 5-1 overall with a 57-51 win Wednesday night over Providence Academy (Arkansas).
Makayla Hayes scored a career-high 25 points to pace the Lady Wildcats, Caitlyn Jordon reached 11 points for her first double-digit game since her sophomore season (Jordon missed all of last season due to injury), Ashley Talley returned to the lineup for the first time this season after an injury sidelined her for the first five games, and Neosho made 13 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter and fouled out a pair of key Providence Academy players.
Neosho rallied first from a 39-29 deficit in the third quarter and then a 45-41 deficit in the fourth, doing everything necessary to win.
“We got down 10 and we had no energy, no life to us,” Neosho head coach Grant Berendt said. “Called a timeout and really challenged the seniors on how they want to be portrayed in this game on what type of game we want to show. They’re a lot better than what they showed, not taking anything away from Providence Academy, but we just didn’t play like us early.
“I think I’m more proud that we had a lead in the fourth, gave it up, got down by four, and came back. A lot of times in this game, if you can take that lead, that’s a huge momentum, but if the other team takes it right back, it’s ‘Ah, all of that and they get the lead back.’ We started making our free throws and did some things that I know this group can do. We got to show people tonight who we are and what type of kids we can be under pressure situations.”
The Lady Wildcats had their best free throw performance of the season, despite a 4-10 start in the first three quarters.
“That’s the team I’m used to seeing,” Berendt said of the fourth quarter performance. “Not just this year, because we haven’t showed it all. In the past, we’ve been in the 60s. As of this game, we were 35 or 37 percent from the line as a team. That’s not going to help you win, unless you make your layups. We’ve got to get better at that part of the game, too, it’s a focus thing. We’re getting the shots that we want in the places that we want, it’s just finishing them.”
A raucous student section greeted the Lady Wildcats for their home opener and the players seemed to feed off their crowd’s enthusiasm and energy.
“A very good crowd,” Berendt said. “(Assistant coach) Matt Hixson had this idea about a month ago of doing a honor night for some of our local heroes. The sheriff department, police department, fire, dispatch, EMS. He organized it all and he had special shirts made. Big thanks to Kiwanis Club, who purchased them for our girls, and we made it ‘America Night’ for the student section.
“We had a lot of students here. I don’t usually see that many students, unless we’re playing a rival like Mac County or Seneca at home. To have them here for a nonconference game, a non-rival game, it helped us. When we made our runs, the crowd got into it. I could see the flags flying and waving, and the kids yelling and chanting. That’s fun for all the kids. I was extremely happy to see the crowd.”
Neosho senior Emilee Kivett added eight points, while fellow seniors Allison Burr and Tori Frazier had six and five points, respectively, with all of Frazier’s points coming on free throws in the final minute.
Neosho, 5-1 overall, returns to action Monday, December 18 at home against East Newton.
Four Providence Academy players scored in double-digits — a trio of players (Faith Curry, Hayley Kate Webb, and Acie Thurlby) with 12 each and Jonisha Rolle with 10. Curry and Rolle fouled out.
NEOSHO 57, PROVIDENCE ACADEMY 51
Providence Academy 12 15 12 12 — 51
Neosho 13 12 11 21 — 57
PROVIDENCE ACADEMY — Faith Curry 12, Hayley Kate Webb 12, Acie Thurlby 12, Jonisha Rolle 10, Hope Smith 3, Alaina Thomas 2.
NEOSHO (5-1) — Makayla Hayes 25, Caitlyn Jordon 11, Emilee Kivett 8, Allison Burr 6, Tori Frazier 5, Madison Flynn 2.