PEA RIDGE, Ark. — The Bearden Bears graduated one player from last season’s Arkansas Class 2 state quarterfinal and 23-4 team.
The Neosho Wildcats, meanwhile, had no players on the floor Thursday who were starters for last season’s Wildcats.
That experience and calm under pressure manifested itself for the Bears as they outscored Neosho 20-11 in the fourth quarter en route to a 61-54 win Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Battle at the Ridge at Pea Ridge High.
“We let them get to the basket too much in the fourth quarter,” Neosho head coach Tony Branscum said. “Just didn’t have the necessary grit to pull out a close game. It’s hard to win varsity basketball games and this edition of the team is learning that. A lot of times, tough lessons come before success and so we’re going to learn from this and come back (Friday) and give it a go and hopefully have another chance to pull one out. We want to be successful.”
Neosho dropped to 1-4 on the season overall after Thursday’s loss and the Wildcats lost three straight games entering Friday night’s consolation game against the NWA Hornets, who lost to the top-seeded Pea Ridge in the game prior to Neosho-Bearden.
The Wildcats played without seasonal leading scorer Brady Wise on Thursday night, who averaged 20 points after his first four games this season. Wise and Diamond transfer Cole Seward are the Wildcat players with the most varsity experience.
Speaking of Seward, he scored 10 of his team-high 17 points in the first quarter and Neosho guards Seward and Kaden King sparked the Wildcats to a 20-16 lead after one with their shooting.
A.C. Marion — who earned the hustle award for his efforts Thursday night — came on strong in the second half with nine of his 16 points. Marion scored seven of Neosho’s 11 points in the fourth, as he seemed to be the one Neosho player not intimidated by the moment. Marion’s basket at the end of the third gave Neosho a 43-41 lead entering the fourth.
Marion comes off a career-high 22 points Monday night against Cassville.
King finished with 10 points, eight in the first half.
The Wildcats led at the end of the first three quarters, but did not lead at the end of the only quarter that matters.
Lavarious Hughes led the Bears and all scorers with 19 points, 13 of which he scored in the first half. Devarious Hughes added 15 points, with nine of his points scored in the fourth quarter as he took control of the contest with his speed, his handle, and his ability to finish.
BEARDEN 61, NEOSHO 54
Bearden 16 15 10 20 — 61
Neosho 20 14 9 11 — 54
BEARDEN (3-1) — Lavarious Hughes 19, Devarious Hughes 15, Tyler Berry 9, Garrett McWhorter 8, Robert Miller 6, Camron Byes 4.
NEOSHO (1-4) — Cole Seward 17, A.C. Marion 16, Kaden King 10, Cade Cradduck 6, Yeej Lee 3, No. 33 2.