The Neosho Wildcats fell into an early hole on the scoreboard and into early foul trouble, both of which proved too much to overcome Saturday in the Class 5, District 12 quarterfinals against rival Carthage at Neosho Junior High.
Neosho fell behind 21-11 after one quarter and 31-18 at halftime en route to a 55-48 season-ending loss. Seasonal leading scorer Brady Wise never found a rhythm, finishing with four points in his final high school game as he picked up his fifth personal foul with 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining on at least his second offensive foul of the contest.
Wise did not score his first points until late in the first half.
Meanwhile, Carthage’s senior tandem of Chase Johnson and Arkell Smith heated up in the first half, combining for 22 points (Johnson 12, Smith 10) and outscoring Neosho in a 31-18 game.
In the fourth quarter, with Cole Seward’s shooting touch heating up, the Wildcats cut it to a four-point deficit on a couple different occasions, but could never make that final push.
The Wildcats, with seniors Wise and Yeej Lee rounding out their prep careers, finished their season 6-20 and two losses came against Carthage.
“We did not contain well to start the game,” Neosho head coach Tony Branscum said. “Carthage came out and punched us in the mouth so to speak and we didn’t respond right away. So, before we responded, they took a little bit of a lead and that proved tough to overcome.
“We drew a charge when we were four down with a minute-15 left, call didn’t go that way, that was a big turning point. Anyway, I was very proud of the boys. A tremendous defensive play by A.C. (Marion), I was proud of the effort that he gave on that.”
Two of the three wheels in the Neosho machine eventually got running Saturday, with Seward and Marion good for 30 points between them. Seward led the Wildcats with 18 points, 14 of which came after halftime and nine alone in the fourth.
In fact, Seward and Marion had 22 of Neosho’s 30 second half points.
Wise, who entered the game averaging 19.3 points per contest, finished with his lowest-scoring total of the season, a byproduct of that foul trouble from which he could never shake himself from Saturday. He entered Saturday with 11 straight double-figure scoring nights.
“We got into foul trouble immediately,” Branscum said. “We had top three guys with two fouls within the first four minutes to start the game, so we fouled too much. We have got to be more disciplined.”
In addition to Seward and Marion, the Wildcats received six points from sophomore Kaden Dickens from a pair of 3-pointers, one in each half.
Smith and Johnson led Carthage with 18 and 15 points, respectively, while Ian O’Malley added nine. Like Johnson, O’Malley scored most of his points in the first half.
CARTHAGE 55, NEOSHO 48
Neosho 11 7 15 15 — 48
Carthage 21 10 8 16 — 55
NEOSHO (6-20) — Cole Seward 18, A.C. Marion 12, Kaden Dickens 6, Brady Wise 4, Sam Cook 3, Yeej Lee 3, Cade Cradduck 2.
CARTHAGE (12-12) — Arkell Smith 18, Chase Johnson 15, Ian O’Malley 9, Brett Fullerton 7, Alex Martini 6.