By Travis Mounce
Last week the Cassville Wildcats faced the McDonald County Mustangs and the Hollister Tigers. The Wildcats fell to McDonald County 45-61 but were able to turn things around and take down Hollister 52-41 in a close game that showed the team's marked improvement over the course of the season.
Last Tuesday, Feb. 3 the Wildcats travelled to McDonald County to face off against the Mustangs. The action was close in the first half, with the Wildcats finishing the period down one point with a score of 14-13.
Cassville continued to stay on the Mustangs' heels throughout the second period and headed into half-time with a deficit of only four points at 28-24.
As the pace quickened in the third, the Wildcats scored 12 points to 15 points for the Mustangs, but in the fourth, McDonald County pulled away from Cassville. McDonald County tallied 18 points while managing to hold the Wildcats to 9 points for the quarter, rendering a final score of 61-45.
Ryan Pace was Cassville's top scorer, accumulating 12 points for the night, closely followed by Josh Lewright, who put up 11 points for the Wildcats.
Others contributing points for Cassville were: Devin Linenbrink, 9 points; Chris Smith, 7 points; Ricky Nichols, 3 points; Nashe Lugeanbeal, 2 points; and Axl Larson, 1 point.
Pace, the Big 8's top rebounder, led the night in rebounds once again with a total seven for the game. Lugeanbeal recorded six steals for the night.
Cassville hosted Hollister last Friday night in an intense match that showed both teams struggling to maintain control in the midst of a barrage of team fouls on both sides of the court.
The Tigers put up the first points of the game, hitting for two right away. They were unable to enjoy this seemingly good beginning, as they sent Lugeanbeal to the free-throw line within the first minute of the game, giving the Wildcats the chance to tie the game at 2-2.
Things just kept getting worse for the Tigers as they continued to accumulate fouls while trying to manage Pace, who had a series of rebounds as well as a pair of great shots that damaged to the struggling visitors' defensive campaign.
Smith helped boost the Wildcats near the end of the period with another dead-on long shot for three, which added to the Wildcats' early 11-7 lead.
As the second period got underway, Hollister began to stage a comeback, scoring 7 points in a row, including a three-pointer and a pair of free-throws that came as a result of Cassville's own rash of foul trouble.
Lugeanbeal scored with ferocity, hitting underneath for two and then driving down court to score again on the next possession before turning it over to Smith who struck again from three-point territory and then again from the free-throw line hitting for one.
Unfortunately, Hollister went on to outscore Cassville 16-10 in the second, despite a pair of free-throw shots from Lewright with 47 seconds left in the half, and at halftime, the score stood at 23-21 in the Tigers' favor.
This would mark the end of Hollister's lead as the Wildcats came out with fresh poise and vigor in the third period and immediately took charge of the court and pulled ahead 27-23 within the first 90 seconds of the half.
Cassville went on to build the lead and maintain it, playing excellent defense and offense, and showing great determination as they rebounded and assisted each other when it made the difference.
As the fourth period began, the Wildcats were up 36-34 and they weren't about to look back as they stretched the distance for the Tigers with Larson putting up the first points in the quarter, making a beautiful shot off of an excellent rebound.
Cassville continued to stay ahead through a series of Hollister fouls and the ensuing free throws. Momentum picked up again as Smith took the ball from Hollister and sent a powerful bullet sailing down the court to Larson who took it to the hoop for two.
In the end, it may have been the 18 points that the Wildcats scored from the free-throw line that won the game for them. As the final buzzer sounded, Cassville had earned a 52-41 victory, their third of the season.
Pace was a leader for the team both offensively and defensively, matching points for rebounds at 17 in both columns. Also putting up points for Cassville were Lugeanbeal with 9, Linenbrink with 8, Larson and Smith with 7 apiece and Lewright with 4.
Larson had six steals during the game, and Smith led the game in the assists category with five.
The Cassville JV squad fell to McDonald County 53-38 last Tuesday.
The Wildcats matched pace with the Mustangs in the first half but fell short in the later portion of the game as McDonald County outscored them 13-9 in the third and 16-7 in the fourth to win the game.
Mike Nolan was the only JV 'Cat to score in the double-digits, tacking up 19 points in the game.
Other point-getters for Cassville were John Botson with 6 points, Evan Stubblefield with 5 points, Kyle Rhea with 4 points and Bo Blisard and Rocky Young with 2 points each.
Stubblefield was the top rebounder hauling in eight boards for the Wildcats.
Despite a massive comeback in the fourth quarter, the Hollister Tigers were unable to overcome the Wildcats' early lead, and Cassville came away with a 46-40 victory.
The Wildcats took charge of the game early, outscoring the Tigers 11-9 in the first quarter before going on to dominate them 17-4 in the second period for a half-time lead of 28-13.
The game seemed to stall in the third period as the Wildcats put up a mere 6 points to overtake the Tigers by 2 points.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers attempted to staged a comeback, scoring 25 points and holding the Wildcats to only 12 points, which was not enough to secure a win.
Stubblefield proved to be the top scorer for Cassville, hitting for 12 points. Others who put points on the scoreboard for the Wildcats were: Young, 9 points; Jordan Bailey, Botson and Nolan, 5 each; Blisard, 4 points; and Brock Jacobs, Brandon Miller and Rhea, 2 apiece.