SENECA — The host Seneca Indians and the visiting Neosho Wildcats blessed all those in attendance Friday night for this Newton County clash with an incredible basketball game.
The rivals battled for 32 minutes in regulation and then another eight minutes of overtime before Seneca came out with a thrilling 75-74 double overtime victory.
Thrilling might be an understatement.
Both teams had multiple players stepping up with defensive plays and clutch shots, Neosho banked in not one but three 3-point shots late in three different quarters, Seneca’s Gavin Dunnam and Neosho’s A.C. Marion went on a tear early in the fourth quarter, Neosho’s Brady Wise forced overtime with a banked 3-point shot and then double overtime with a near-slam dunk, and finally, in the end, three key Neosho players — who combined for 65 of the team’s 74 points — fouled out, Marion late in regulation and then Wise and Cole Seward in double overtime.
Look up “barnburner” in the dictionary and Friday night’s game could be featured.
“I would agree with that,” Seneca head coach Will King said. “Friday night, good environment, you know, close schools with a lot of connections, and just a battle all night long. I think every player who played on the floor tonight, I’m just proud of everybody, Neosho kids, Seneca kids. We won, so we’re more excited but what a battle.”
Neosho head coach Tony Branscum obviously did not speak with the same enthusiasm as King.
“We just didn’t do enough in the end to come out on top,” Branscum said. “We did foul out three guys and that’s tough to overcome.”
Wise scored a game-high 32 points before fouling out with 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in double overtime. In other words, he would bow out just a mere 12 seconds into the second overtime.
With 1:11 remaining, Seward fouled out after a 15-point night. Minus Wise and Marion on the floor, Seward had become Neosho’s top option offensively.
Mason Gammons banked in a late three for the final score and Neosho’s only three points of the second overtime.
Seneca netted four points in double overtime, all on Preston Armstrong free throws. The Indians attempted eight free throws in double overtime alone, while Neosho attempted none. In just the overtimes alone, Seneca attempted 12 more free throws than Neosho’s four and the Wildcats shot theirs all in the first overtime with two attempts each for Seward and Wise.
Marion was the first key Neosho player to foul out, whistled for a foul guarding Gavin Clouse with 1:46 remaining in regulation. Marion finished with 18 points, half of which he scored in the fourth.
Neosho fell behind 39-30 in the third quarter, after Dunnam showed his dexterity with a behind-the-back dribble and a finish at the rim for that nine-point lead.
Neosho rattled off 10 straight banks, highlighted by eight unanswered by Wise, who put the Wildcats ahead 40-39 on the first of three Neosho banked trifectas.
Cameron Brattin gave Seneca a 41-40 lead entering the fourth and the two teams exchanged the lead the rest of the night.
Armstrong made a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left in regulation for a three-point lead and that’s when Wise banked in his trifecta.
Wise nearly came through with a steal at midcourt to give the Wildcats a chance for the win, but it was Seneca who retained possession and Armstrong fired a long heave short for overtime. Kaden King contested Armstrong’s shot.
Seneca improved to 6-1 on the season — with five of those wins coming against larger schools, including two against Neosho — and the Indians featured a more balanced attack than the Wildcats.
Four different Indians reached double-digits and all six players who scored Friday night each contributed at least seven points.
Dunham led the way with 20 points, while Clouse had 15, Brett Reeves 14, Armstrong 10, Isaiah Grotjohn nine, and Brattin seven.
“You mentioned Gavin Dunnam,” King said. “He’s such a competitor and he’s a kid that’s started since he was a freshman. This year, he’s one of our leaders, he plays with a lot of confidence, and he’s a tough guard because he can score in multiple ways as he proved tonight.
“We talk about him, but I think the big reason where we’re at is that we have a team that plays together. We’ve got different guys that lead us every night. I wouldn’t say that we have a star player, a standout, but we have a lot of guys that do a lot of different things, which makes us tough.
“The defense has been tremendous to start the year. I’m not going to say it was tonight against Wise, but he hit tough shots and he’s a great player. Overall, through our first seven games, we’ve been strong in our team defense. Defense allows you to win.”
Neosho, meanwhile, dropped to 1-8 heading into Saturday’s contest in Webb City against Lamar. Half of those losses came by five points or loss, including three straight against Joe T. Robinson (44-41), Monett (63-58), and Seneca.
SENECA 75, NEOSHO 74 (2 OT)
Neosho 18 8 14 24 7 3 — 74
Seneca 12 14 15 23 7 4 — 75
NEOSHO (1-8) — Brady Wise 32, A.C. Marion 18, Cole Seward 15, Cade Cradduck 4, Mason Gammons 3, Kaden King 2.
SENECA (6-1) — Gavin Dunnam 20, Gavin Clouse 15, Brett Reeves 14, Preston Armstrong 10, Isaiah Grotjohn 9, Cameron Brattin 7.