The Neosho Wildcats fell to 1-3 in the Central Ozark Conference with a 71-58 loss Friday night to the unbeaten in conference Ozark Tigers, the defending conference champions.

A Mason Gammons basket made it a 47-40 game in the third quarter and then A.C. Marion drove into the teeth of the Ozark defense for an apparent basket and what would have been a five-point deficit with a chance for one more point taken off the Tigers’ lead.

However, Marion was called for an offensive foul, meaning no basket, and Ozark ran off seven consecutive points for a 54-40 advantage late in the third quarter.

Neosho senior point guard Kaden King’s trifecta cut it to 54-43 entering the fourth.

Neosho senior Cade Cradduck led the Wildcats with 14 points, nine of which he scored in the first half. Marion added 11 points, Mason Gammons nine with seven of those in the second half, Cole Seward eight before fouling out just a minute into the fourth quarter, Quincey Willis six on a trio of difficult shots, Derek Ferguson five a game after scoring a career-high 17 points, King three, and Sam Cook two before fouling out with 2 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in regulation.

Troy Davidson led Ozark with 17 points, all of which he scored in the first three quarters and he poured in 14 in the first half to help the Tigers to a 44-29 halftime lead. A.J. Elliott added 14 points and Kristian Cooper 13 more.

Neosho, already three wins past what it achieved last season, dropped to 9-9 and the Wildcats put their 1-3 conference mark up against rival Carthage on Tuesday.

Neosho and Carthage have not yet played this season, although the Wildcats did go 0-3 to start their season in the Carthage tournament.

Carthage stands at 10-10 overall and 1-3 in the COC, and the Tigers have lost three straight contests since a 58-54 win over Carl Junction in the Pittsburg (Kansas) Border War Invitational. The Tigers lost 76-58 to Nevada, 72-39 to Joplin, and 58-46 to Republic, the latter two conference foes.

Like Neosho, Carthage’s lone conference victory this season came against Carl Junction, Neosho won 60-57 against the Bulldogs while Carthage defeated the Bulldogs 60-46 in early January.