The Neosho Lady Wildcats definitely needed a win Monday night.
They had lost six consecutive games — all of them by at least 15 points, including five by more than 30 — entering their regular season finale against Central Ozark Conference foe Joplin.
This Joplin squad entered Monday with a mere two victories this season.
Neosho needed a win to get some momentum on its side before Saturday’s opening Class 4, District 12 showdown against familiar foe McDonald County.
The Lady Wildcats did not want to head into districts on a seven-game losing streak.
They made sure of ending their losing streak with a 60-35 victory over Joplin.
“I was preaching to the girls this week that we needed this to get us ready for districts,” Neosho head coach Matt Hixson said. “We needed to move the ball, share the ball well, which I thought we did. We had a really good defensive effort. Avery Renfro came in and gave us some good minutes defensively. I felt like everybody executed and did what they were supposed to do offensively. It’s something to build on, that’s for sure.”
Neosho enters the postseason with a 7-17 overall record and the Lady Wildcats finished 1-8 in the brutal COC.
Neosho’s lone senior Madison Flynn scored a game-high 22 points in her final home game.
“I know that it has to feel good for her,” Hixson said. “She was out for a couple weeks with a concussion. She came out of her shell last week against Nixa, she had 16, but tonight’s the first night she put up over 20 in … she just looked to attack. Of course, shots were falling early and that’s a good thing for her. We’re going to need big minutes from her at districts.”
Between games, when the seniors were honored, Flynn received a standing ovation and many hugs from her younger teammates.
Olivia Hixson finished with 15 points, Mary Dunbar nine, Brylee King eight, Renfro four, and Michelle Lindsay two.
Neosho scored the game’s first 15 points and never looked back.
Dayleigh Smith led Joplin with 12 points.
Neosho and McDonald County have already played two memorable games this season, a fact of course not lost on Coach Hixson and the Lady Wildcats.
“We just talked in the locker room,” Hixson said, “about we beat ‘em once in overtime and we beat ‘em a second time in a really close game with one of their starters out. It’s hard to beat a team three times in one year. We’re going to celebrate this one big tonight, but at midnight, we’ve got to put it behind us and this week, we’ve got to come to practice focused and ready and going hard and going after each other so we will be ready.”
In the first victory over McDonald County, 55-50 in overtime in the Carl Junction tournament, Neosho made a huge second half comeback.
Flynn scored 24 points and had six rebounds and four steals. Maile Gindling provided a bench spark with nine points. Renfro had five steals, all important in the comeback victory. Olivia Hixson added six points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Dunbar had three rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Neosho worked through 34 turnovers.
Key McDonald County players Rita Santillan and Ragan Wilson fouled out in overtime.
In the second contest, played on Neosho’s Homecoming, Neosho again finished strong for the 46-42 victory, outscoring McDonald County 27-21 after halftime.
Flynn and Hixson led the way with 16 and 15 points, respectively, while Flynn had six rebounds and four steals, Lindsay eight rebounds and three assists, and Hixson seven rebounds.
Neosho has won five straight games against McDonald County.