Neosho junior guard Cole Seward outdid himself Friday night.
Earlier this season, Seward hit a 17-foot fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 51-49 victory over Memphis Sheffield in the Neosho Holiday Classic.
With 5.5 seconds remaining in Friday’s Central Ozark Conference Large game against the Willard Tigers, Seward drove through the Willard defense, put up a high-arching shot with his left hand in the lane, and it went in to give the Wildcats a 51-50 win in conference play.
Unlike that earlier game, a late December consolation game played early Friday morning, the Willard game featured a raucous Neosho student section and they stormed the court in celebration of the Wildcats’ fifth win overall and first in the COC Large this season.
The Wildcats honored seniors Brady Wise and Yeej Lee before the game, their penultimate home game of the regular season. The Wildcats still have a makeup game pending with Carthage.
“I saw open court and my first idea was to shoot a jumper,” Seward told Josh King of NeoshoWildcatSports.com, “but then I realized that it was a 6-5 guy, so I decided to drive to the rim and at least get a foul.”
Earlier in the final minute, Seward took a charge against Willard junior guard Kobe Holloman, fouling him out with with a tie score. Holloman and Seward had earlier been tangled up and Holloman earned a technical foul (his fourth personal) after being unable to keep his hands off Seward after receiving a warning from the official. Out of that possession, Neosho came out with three points — all by A.C. Marion — and down 43-42.
“I was already in his head and I knew that if I stuck to him tight,” Seward said, “I thought he would do something stupid. I knew he would push off or turn it over.”
Speaking of Marion and three points, Marion hit a banked 3-point shot for a 49-all score. Yes, it was that kind of a special night for the Wildcats.
“I told A.C. at timeout, I don’t know how that went in,” Seward said, “but it went in and that’s all matters. I said, ‘Let’s go win it.’”
“Getting a win on Senior Night is pretty crazy,” Wise said. “We didn’t win last year on Senior Night, I think, and it just feels good, especially being the last two coming up through seventh grade. I’ve been doing it with my brother since seventh grade and it’s been a fun time.”
“You always remember the first,” Lee said. ”You always remember the last. So, I’m glad this one ended with a W.”
Wise led Neosho — 5-17 overall and 1-3 COC Large — with 17 points, while Marion added 16 and Seward 12 points. Cade Cradduck and Lee picked up four and two points, respectively.
Abreu scored a game-high 26 points for Willard, but only two in the fourth with a pair of free throws.
At several points in the third quarter, it looked like Willard had Neosho on the ropes with a chance to extend a six-point lead into double-digits. Nope, of course, it never happened, as Willard managed to lead only by as many six points at four different scores. Abreu’s 23rd and 24th points of the game made it 38-32 and that would be the last six-point lead for Willard, and Neosho entered the fourth down only 40-39.
Three missed free throws late did not help the Tigers’ cause either.
Neosho returns to action on Valentine’s Day with a home clash against conference and district foe Carthage. Neosho and Carthage might end up playing each other three times this season.
NEOSHO 51, WILLARD 50
Willard 7 17 16 10 — 50
Neosho 13 13 13 12 — 51
WILLARD (9-11, 1-4) — Daniel Abreu 26, Maurice Grayer 9, Quintin Batson 6, Kobe Holloman 5, Elijah Davis 2, Riley Young 2.
NEOSHO (5-17, 1-3) — Brady Wise 17, A.C. Marion 16, Cole Seward 12, Cade Cradduck 4, Yeej Lee 2.