The Neosho Wildcats made enough plays down the stretch to earn a 60-57 victory Tuesday night over Central Ozark Conference and Class 4, District 12 foe Carl Junction.
A.C. Marion scored a team-high 21 points, Derek Ferguson netted a career-high 17 points during a night with some foul trouble, and Kaden King finished with seven points all in the fourth quarter.
With a 58-57 score and 10 seconds remaining in regulation, King stepped up to the stripe and hit both free throws. Carl Junction had no choice but to shoot the long ball to force overtime.
King made all four of his free throws and his first pair gave Neosho a 54-44 lead with 4:50 remaining in regulation.
Alex Baker’s second old-fashioned three-point play of the fourth made it 58-57 with 1:34 remaining, but the Wildcats managed to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Neosho improved to 9-8 overall and 1-2 COC, and the Wildcats own three straight victories entering Friday night’s COC clash against Ozark.
Ozark enters Friday night 12-6 overall after a 56-55 buzzer-beating win Tuesday against Springfield-area rival Glendale. Troy Davidson hit a 3-point shot for the victory.
The Tigers are 2-0 in conference play with victories back in January against Branson (65-26) and Webb City (80-75), teams which Neosho has not yet played this season.
On Tuesday night, Neosho started out slow, as Carl Junction scored the game’s first five points and led 16-9 after one quarter.
Marion and Ferguson combined for Neosho’s first 17 points and the first points outside that senior duo came from fellow senior Cade Cradduck on an old-fashioned three-point play with 4:42 left in the first half.
Ferguson picked up his third personal foul at 5:02 and he did not return to the scoring column until the second half with a pair of free throws at 2:10 of the third.
Marion led the Wildcats with 15 points at intermission, but it was senior guard Cole Seward who picked an absolutely great time for his first three points of the contest. Seward’s trifecta provided Neosho a 30-27 halftime lead.
The Wildcats scored the first nine points after halftime, highlighted by five points from junior reserve Quincey Willis. Willis slashed to the basket for two and stepped outside and spotted up for a trifecta and 39-27 advantage, Neosho’s largest of the night.
The Wildcats entered the fourth ahead 46-40.
In addition to the trio of Marion, Ferguson, and King, who combined for 45 points, Neosho received five points from Willis, five from Seward, three from Cradduck, and two from Sam Cook.
Southwest Baptist signee Trent Smith led Carl Junction with 21 points — none coming the final 5:24 — and Teagan Armentrout and Baker finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Armentrout and Baker each did their best work in the fourth, but Baker fouled out in the final minute.
Neosho undoubtedly secured itself at least the No. 2 seed in the upcoming district tournament, since the Wildcats are 4-0 against teams in their district with victories against Cassville (52-49), Monett (63-58), McDonald County (62-42), and Carl Junction (60-57).
The Wildcats have only Webb City from their district remaining before the end of the regular season. Neosho and Webb City play in the Cardinal Dome on February 12.