WEBB CITY —On Tuesday night inside the Cardinal Dome, the Neosho Wildcats and the Webb City Cardinals played exactly the kind of game you would expect from not only longtime rivals but also teams playing for the right to be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class 4, District 12 tournament.
Maybe even a better game.
Neosho and Webb City traded punches all evening, like a pair of world class middleweights, until Webb City outscored Neosho 11-2 over the final three minutes to come away with a 72-64 victory in Central Ozark Conference play.
Neosho led at halftime and after the third quarter, and even as late as 3 minutes, 10 seconds in the fourth at 62-61.
Webb City’s pressure defense caught up with Neosho late and forced Neosho to pick up the pace and either throw high-risk passes that produced turnovers or take quicker shots than Neosho would like. Neosho’s empty possessions coupled with Webb City free throws helped produce that final score.
“We were right there with the lead in the fourth quarter,” Neosho head coach Zane Culp said. “Our guys really came out and competed. Proud of them. Just right there and a few different things go our way, we’d be a little bit happier.”
The Wildcats played arguably their most consistent game of the year — scoring 19 points in the first quarter, 17 in the second, 14 in the third, and 14 in the fourth.
“We had spread out scoring,” Culp said. “Also, we scored well in every quarter. Lots of times, it’s like that whole fourth quarter we’re down 10 and we’re trying to fight back. No, we were in it, because we kept scoring. We would have liked to played better defense, but Webb City’s a high-powered offense so you have to sometimes take what you can get and that’s that.”
We’ve seen Neosho play strong first halves this season — for example, against Seneca at Carthage, EStem at Pea Ridge and Kansas City Ruskin in the Holiday Classic — before a bad quarter or a bad second half and we’ve also seen Neosho surrender a lead in the fourth like against Lamar in the Holiday Classic.
Neosho dropped to 9-13 overall and 1-6 COC, and the Wildcats’ losing streak extended to five games — their longest of the season — before Friday night’s game against Nixa.
Webb City improved to 13-8 overall and 4-3 COC.
Neosho and Webb City might play each other again soon on the same court for a district title.
“We’ve got work to do ahead,” Culp said, “but it would be fun to play them again because that would be a really good rematch. You know what they say, it’s hard to beat a team twice, so maybe we’d be in the driver’s seat in that situation.”
A.C. Marion led Neosho in scoring for the third consecutive game after his two points against Carthage, having 19 points Tuesday night with 15 of those in the second half. Cade Cradduck added 13 points, Mason Gammons 11, Cole Seward and Derek Ferguson eight apiece, Kaden King three, and Sam Cook two.
Webb City’s lone senior Alex Gaskill led all scorers with 23 points on Senior Night, while Terrell Kabala scored 18 and Jaystin Smith and Nickhai Howard each added 10.
At two points in the third quarter, Neosho held an eight-point advantage, but just could not push that lead into double-digits.
Even late in the third, Neosho led Webb City 50-45 with 39.7 seconds remaining, only to see Gaskill and Howard score baskets for a 50-49 score entering the fourth.
Kabala’s basket to start the fourth gave Webb City a 51-50 lead and the teams exchanged the lead several times before Webb City’s deciding run.