The Neosho Lady Wildcats, wearing their new pink uniforms, parlayed 16-2 and 17-0 scoring runs into a 54-30 win Thursday evening over rival McDonald County in the quarterfinals of the Neosho Holiday Classic.
“Our kids handled the game well,” Neosho head coach Grant Berendt said, “from the standpoint of it being a Christmas tournament game at our place against a rival. In those games, you’ve got to throw the records out and it comes down to kids playing hard because they grew up with these kids or hanging around them and they just want to beat those kids.
“We had a 16-2 run to grab hold the game and then we finally pulled away in the middle of the second. Thought we had a very good third quarter, coming out and extending that lead, and trying to put the game away at that point.”
Neosho (7-1) plays Springdale Har-Ber (7-5) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday night at the Junior High with a spot in Saturday’s championship game at stake. Bentonville and Van Buren, the two-time defending champion, play in the late semifinal.
“It’s going to be a different style of team than Mac,” Berendt said of Har-Ber. “Two very good guards. One going to Henderson State (Maci Mains) and Savanna Collins (offer to Central Missouri). Both can score from the volleyball line in and take you off the bounce.
“Size wise, we match up well with them, but they’re going to be a typical type of COC team in how they guard and how they play. Our kids have seen the style before. Our kids have to be a little smarter with the ball and be a little stronger with the ball because of how they guard.”
Neosho committed 16 turnovers Thursday, something that Berendt attributed more to trying to do too much at times and making a fancy pass. The Lady Wildcats forced McDonald County into 25 turnovers — highlighted by 12 steals — and scored 19 points off turnovers.
Neosho and Har-Ber are familiar opponents from the early-season Joplin Tournament.
The Lady Wildcats brought out memorable warm-up jerseys for the Holiday Classic last season, and did not disappoint again this season.
“We’ve done a good job as a program of fundraising the past few years,” Berendt said. “Our seniors, we always talk about something they’ve been a part of four years. This is my fourth year and it’s something they would want. We got together and game planned it, and ordered these back in August. We’re going to have an actual Pink Out Night in Neosho, but we haven’t had the most energy the last couple days in practice. The girls didn’t know until they got here, so it was something that was a surprise for them.”
Allison Burr led the Lady Wildcats with 13 points, as she especially flourished in transition and penetration situations. Madison Flynn gave Neosho a lift from the bench with nine points and Emilee Kivett and Makayla Hayes each provided eight points.. Meanwhile, senior Ashley Talley and freshman Brylee King each received loud applause from the Neosho faithful for their first points of the season and in King’s case, her first points at the varsity level.
Meagan Mills and Ragan Wilson each led McDonald County with eight points, with most of their points scored during a fourth quarter that fell in and out of running clock mode. The Lady Mustangs scored 16 of their 30 points in the fourth, after managing only three in the third with all three points on free throws by Mills and Wilson.
McDonald County played St. Joseph Lafayette in a consolation semifinal at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
NEOSHO 54, McDONALD COUNTY 30
Neosho 12 17 15 10 — 54
McDonald County 4 7 3 16 — 30
NEOSHO (7-1) — Allison Burr 13, Madison Flynn 9, Emilee Kivett 8, Makayla Hayes 8, Caitlyn Jordon 7, Brylee King 3, Tori Frazier 3, Ashley Talley 3.
McDONALD COUNTY (0-7) — Meagan Mills 8, Ragan Wilson 8, Sam Frazier 4, Addison Mick 4, Aspen Bowman 4, Kristin Penn 2.