CARL JUNCTION — Perseverance, defense, and timely shots paid off for the Neosho Lady Wildcats during a 55-50 overtime victory Wednesday night over rival McDonald County in the Carl Junction Classic.
Neosho trailed 30-16 early in the second half, but outscored McDonald County 20-4 to earn a 36-34 lead early in the fourth quarter on a Madison Flynn basket.
Neosho then trailed 46-42 late in regulation, but the Lady Wildcats scored the final four points to force overtime, the final point on a Maile Gindling free throw with 3.9 seconds left on the clock.
In overtime, Neosho finished it off with a 7-2 run and three key players all fouled out for McDonald County, Rita Santillan, Regan Wilson, and Sam Frazier. The Lady Mustangs would have been hampered during a second overtime.
Flynn and the Lady Wildcats made sure that would not happen, outscoring the Lady Mustangs 39-20 after that 16-point deficit.
Neosho improved to 2-2 overall and the Lady Mustangs played Carl Junction on Thursday for third place. Carl Junction rolled 58-30 Wednesday over Jasper.
"We've got to stop getting off to these slow starts," Neosho head coach Matt Hixson said. "At halftime, I talked to them about how this is the third game in a row where we've gone an entire quarter without scoring basically. I'm super proud of the way they responded after halftime. I feel like there's a lot we can work on and if we can come out with that intensity to begin with, then we'd be a lot better off. I'm happy with the win and happy to be back on that side of the column again.
"A lot of it (the comeback) had to do with No. 1 (Avery Renfro). She is our sixth or seventh person off the bench and she's just a defensive guru. ... She gave us some life basically. We had a long talk today about playing for each other, playing as a team, and I felt like they finally came together second half and did that."
Coach Hixson talked about Neosho's slow starts and on Wednesday, the Lady Wildcats managed only four points in the first stanza with baskets from Flynn and Halley Merrell. Fortunately, for the Lady Wildcats, they only trailed 6-4 after one.
Both teams heated up in the second quarter, although the Lady Wildcats returned to their frigid ways down the final 4:41 of the half with only Olivia Hixson and Renfro single free throws accounting for their points. McDonald County took a 26-16 halftime lead due to a 11-2 spurt over 4:24 of game time.
During the Lady Wildcats' run in the third quarter, Gindling provided a huge bench spark with eight of her points. She hit a 3-point shot to draw the Lady Wildcats to a 34-33 deficit entering the fourth.
Flynn, meanwhile, scored 16 of her career-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Defensively, Renfro and the Lady Wildcats forced McDonald County into a multitude of turnovers in both the fourth and overtime.
Fittingly enough, Renfro knocked down two free throws at 1:02 in overtime to give Neosho a 50-48 lead.
In addition to Flynn's 24 points, Gindling had nine, Brylee King and Olivia Hixson six each, Mary Dunbar and Renfro four each, and Merrell two.
Santillan led McDonald County with 16 points and Wilson added eight.