The Neosho Lady Wildcats outscored the Branson Lady Pirates 28-0 over a pair of scoring runs, nearly five players reached double figures, and the Lady Wildcats prevented a three-game losing streak with a 57-40 win Thursday night over Branson.
Makayla Hayes and Caitlyn Jordon each led the Lady Wildcats with 12 points and unlike recent games where the Lady Wildcats have been heavily Hayes and Jordon offensively, the senior trio of Allison Burr, Emilee Kivett, and Ashley Talley each provided nine points to the offensive attack.
Neosho turned a 16-13 deficit into a 21-16 halftime lead with an 8-0 spurt and then scored the first two points after halftime for a 23-16 edge.
After the Lady Pirates trimmed it to 27-24, Neosho ended the third on a 7-0 and then scored the first 11 points of the fourth for a 45-24 advantage.
After those scoring runs, Neosho had outscored Branson 28-24 on the strength of the two runs alone.
Neosho improved to 13-6 overall and 2-2 Central Ozark Conference Large, and the Lady Wildcats returned to action Saturday against Helias Catholic.
“At halftime, I told the girls that giving up 16,” Neosho head coach Grant Berendt said, “I was pleased with that. A few of those I felt like we didn’t make them earn, but part of our talk at halftime was to make a few adjustments and speed them up. We tried to not give those direct-line drives like they got early. I felt like we did that. They hit some threes late. We knew they were capable, but I think our kids got caught a little checking score, checking time and not extending out on their skips.
“We talked about putting together some halves and being consistent throughout each quarter. I thought there were some bright spots, at the end of the second quarter with a 7-0 run to kind of take the lead and then we had that big 18-0 run at the end of the third that stretched to the fourth. I thought that we put pressure on them, because on Monday, I thought we showed what type of team we can be and if we’re not focused on things, what type of team we can be also.”
Berendt was also strongly encouraged by the more balanced scoring Thursday night.
“It’s not been as balanced as we’re capable,” Berendt said. “I think our kids were lacking a little bit of their confidence on some things, because we’ve got a lot of kids who can score. Emilee Kivett had nine tonight, Allison Burr had nine and Allison’s capable of going off for 20 easily, and Ashley Talley had nine. Tori (Frazier) passed up a few good looks, I kept telling her to shoot it.
“When we get more balanced scoring and teams can’t key in on a couple kids, it helps us. It makes us harder to defend.”
The Lady Wildcats played at home for the first time since January 8 and their conference-opening win over Webb City.
Home has been sweet for the Lady Wildcats this season — 4-1 in the Neosho High School gym (only loss coming against Arkansas Class 7 Bentonville in the third place game of the Holiday Classic) and 5-2 overall counting two games at Neosho Junior High (another loss to an Arkansas Class 7 school, Springdale Har-Ber).
Branson received a game-high 19 points from Lauren Garrison and a dozen more from Gracie Jaeger. Only four Lady Pirates reached the scoring column.
This was Neosho’s first win against Branson since the 2014-15 season, Berendt’s first at Neosho.
In other games around the COC on Thursday, the Republic Lady Tigers continued their winning ways with a 56-40 victory over Webb City. The Lady Tigers have won eight of their last 11 games.
The Ozark Lady Tigers handed their rival Nixa a 51-46 defeat.
NEOSHO 57, BRANSON 40
Branson 9 7 8 16 — 40
Neosho 6 15 13 23 — 57
BRANSON — Lauren Garrison 19, Gracie Jaeger 12, Karis Goodwin 7, Britton Ellis 2.
NEOSHO — Makayla Hayes 12, Caitlyn Jordon 12, Allison Burr 9, Emilee Kivett 9, Ashley Talley 9, Madison Flynn 4, Tori Frazier 2.