REPUBLIC — The Neosho Wildcats hung tough with the Republic Tigers for the first 12 minutes of their Central Ozark Conference opener Tuesday night.
Republic then outscored Neosho 43-18 after the Tigers called a timeout midway through the second quarter and earned a 67-39 victory, though Republic literally left a bloody mess with bloodied noses for Broc Smith and Jaden Duvall.
Neosho managed only 17 points after halftime, including five in the fourth.
Smith, a Drury men's basketball commit, scored a game-high 23 points with 16 of his points at the free throw line on 16 for 17 shooting. Drew McMillin and Tucker Thomas finished in double-digits with 14 and 11 points, respectively, while Race Looney and Trent Rackley combined for 17 more points with Looney nine and Rackley eight.
Neosho dropped to 6-7 overall and 0-1 COC, and the Wildcats return to action Friday night in the nightcap of a COC varsity doubleheader against Willard. After a four-game winning streak, the Wildcats have dropped three of their last four games.
Willard, 7-5 overall, comes off a 67-65 overtime loss Tuesday night against Nixa, despite a game-high 23 points from Maurice Grayer and 14 points from Daniel Abreu.
Last season, Neosho and Willard played a memorable Friday night game in Neosho, one which the Wildcats won 51-50 at the buzzer on a Cole Seward basket.
A.C. Marion and Seward had 16 and 12 points in that game, while Abreu scored a game-high 26 points for Willard but only two came in the fourth quarter.
Abreu, in the 73rd edition of the Blue and Gold Tournament over the holidays, broke a tournament scoring record with 125 points over four games in four days. Abreu broke the mark formerly held by Aurora's Jasen Fronabarger at 122.