It was just a week ago the McDonald County Mustangs hosted the Carl Junction Bulldogs, losing 41-26 on Senior Night.

On Thursday night, the teams met again in the Class 4, District 12 semifinals at the Cardinal Dome. At stake was a spot in Saturday night's district final.

Carl Junction entered Thursday winning four of its last five games, all by double-digit margins, East Newton 68-51, Joplin 55-38, McDonald County 41-26 and Monett 53-28 in the play-in game Tuesday night.

McDonald County lost three of its last four regular season games, including that finale against Carl Junction.


It was a familiar spot for McDonald County junior guard Drew Harmon.

The game on the line with No. 3 at the line.

Down 45-44 with 7.6 seconds remaining on the clock, Harmon stepped up to the stripe and calmly knocked down his free throw for a tie score.

Carl Junction head coach Skip Brock called a timeout to ice the shooter.

Harmon, however, stepped up for his second free throw and drained it, giving the Mustangs a one-point lead.

Carl Junction senior guard Cody Vogt's final shot rimmed out and it was celebration time for the district championship bound Mustangs.

"Just a high school game as a fan, as a player, as a coach, you want to be in those games," McDonald County head coach Trent Barratt said. "It feels really good. I'm excited for our team. We've got juniors and seniors, and what a better way to finish with them having a chance to win a district championship."

After Harmon's previous late-game heroics this season against Neosho and East Newton, Harmon could be a shoo-in for mayor one day.

"He's done that before," Barratt said. "He's made big shots to close games, he's made big free throws, but you've got to give Carl Junction a lot of credit. Their 2-3 zone was tough. Coach Brock is a tremendous coach, a veteran. I'm proud of the guys for the way they handled adversity. Just excited. It was a real good team win."

Carl Junction struggled late at the line in overtime, missing five straight down the stretch to help out McDonald County down 45-40.

Dagan Stites knocked down a 3 to get it to 45-43, Jake Wood split a pair for a one-point deficit, all leading up to Harmon's game-winning pair. Harmon himself missed the front end of a one-and-one earlier in overtime.

The 15-point loss to Carl Junction to end the regular season remained fresh in the mind of McDonald County headed into Thursday.

"We didn't play well at home on our Senior Night," Barratt said. "We talked about it, but it was really our execution tonight. We executed against their zone, our defense was pretty tough and we rebounded pretty well. Like I said, both teams fought. It was just a great high school basketball game."

The Mustangs started out the game a little slow, but shots began to fall, a difference from the previous meeting.

"They came out on us and we kinda responded and went on a little run," Barratt said. "Down the stretch, players hit big shots. That's what high school basketball's about this time of the year. Guys have to step up and make big plays, and we were fortunate enough to make the last one."

Harmon scored 11 for McDonald County, while Daton Aubrey led the Mustangs with 15 and Stites added 11.

Braydon Allen proved Carl Junction's go-to guy all night, finishing with a game-high 17 points. Ryan Devore added 11 for the Bulldogs.

McDonald County takes on Carthage in the district final Saturday night, following the McDonald County-Carl Junction girls contest which starts at 6 p.m. Carthage, down 32-25 at the half, came back in the second half to prevail 59-58.

Thursday night was the latest chapter in the McDonald County-Carl Junction saga.

Carl Junction defeated McDonald County 69-48 for the district title last year, winning on the Bulldogs' home court. The Bulldogs have won the last two district titles, with McDonald County claiming a District 12 title in 2012 with a 68-66 victory over Carl Junction, this district final also in Carl Junction.

In that game last year, Matt Magee (graduated) led CJ with 20 points, while Nelson and Vogt added 14 and 11, respectively, and Aubrey led McDonald County with 16. Grotts picked up 11 for the Mustangs.

The previous two district meetings determined the title.


CJ    10 6 10 14 5 — 45

McD     8 12 10 10 6 — 46

CARL JUNCTION (12-15) — Braydon Allen 17, Ryan Devore 10, Cody Vogt 7, Aaron Nelson 5, Dayton McIntosh 3, Michael Elbert 3.

McDONALD COUNTY (16-11) — Daton Aubrey 15, Drew Harmon 11, Dagan Stites 11, Austin Grotts 6, Jake Wood 3.