The Neosho Wildcats lost their sixth consecutive game with a 63-58 loss Tuesday night to the visiting Monett Cubs.
Neosho trailed 30-20 at halftime, but outscored Monett 17-6 in the third quarter to take a 37-36 lead into the fourth quarter. In fact, Neosho had a 45-40 lead a couple minutes into the fourth.
Monett broke away late with 12 points in the final 2 minutes, 21 seconds of regulation, propelled by strong free throw shooting by Garrett Tharp, Jackson Spencer, and Zach Blevins. The Cubs finished the game with 10 consecutive free throws and that’s how you win close games; proving it’s not how you start but how you finish, Monett started the fourth just 1 for 6 from the stripe.
Monett outscored Neosho 27-21 in the fourth and 46-33 in the first and fourth quarters.
“We let (Gavin) Carr drive to the hole at will in the first half,” Neosho head coach Tony Branscum told Josh King of neoshowildcatsports.com. “(He) scored a bunch of points and we contained him until late in the game. We had some miscommunication and that cost us. We let him loose.
“The pressure defense in the third quarter caused turnovers and the guys did a good job. We did the same thing in the fourth and it caused free throws. Putting them on the line and they hit a bunch of them. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Credit to them. We’re saying that we lost because they hit 10 free throws down the stretch … that’s part of the game and they did a great job.”
Neosho takes its 1-7 record on the road Friday night against Newton County rival Seneca, who started its 5-1 season thus far with a win over Neosho in the season opener at the Carthage Invitational.
Gavin Carr scored a game-high 22 points to pace the Cubs, while Tharp scored 19 behind five 3-point shots and four free throws in the final 15 seconds and Cameron Johnson and Spencer each added eight.
Brady Wise scored 21 points to lead the Wildcats before he fouled out with 1:38 remaining. Blevins made his two free throws and then Tharp hit a dagger trifecta to give the Cubs a 57-51 advantage and effectively keep the game out of reach, with their free throw shooting critical.
Wise returned to the court for his first full game action since a loss last Monday to Cassville, a game where Cassville put Neosho away with free throw shooting.
“He’s battling through some pretty severe stuff,” Branscum said of Wise. “He will play this week. He will have surgery Monday (on his right knee) and then we’ll see what the timeline is for his healing. For him to go through this his senior season, it’s really tough. I hope for him that he can get back to being himself and get to enjoy all the work that he’s put into his game.
“It was good to have him out here. He played hard. Certainly, he put up points. That’s his average and we’re used to that, so it was no surprise to us.”
Kaden King netted six points, both shots from deep and both shots proved big for Neosho, the first good for a 36-35 deficit late in the third and the second produced a 40-38 lead early in the fourth.
Senior guard Yeej Lee picked up all five of his points in the final 29.3 seconds, on a pair of free throws and then the final three points of the night.
A.C. Marion finished with 10 points and the inside-outside duo of Cade Cradduck and Cole Seward each provided eight.
Neosho made 15-20 free throws for a 75 percent night at the stripe.
This is Neosho’s worst start since the one-win season of 2012-13.