Conventional wisdom said that Cassville was due for a home game. A 1-4 team with a new coach struggling for an identity early in the season, the Wildcats just needed a little home cooking to wear the winner's label again. Somebody forgot to tell Crane they were the designated sacrificial lamb, and the Pirates spoiled Cassville's home debut with the 61-44 victory.
Levi Cook scored a game high 27 points in leading the Pirates over the Wildcats. Cook posted 10 in the second quarter, benefiting from four free throws, and hit four field goals in the fourth to put the game away.
The Wildcats drew first blood in the contest. Josh Lewright snared an offensive board and scored on a short jumper for the 2-0 score. Cassville rolled to a 7-2 lead off a Travis Northern jumper from the left baseline and a crowd-pleasing three by Axl Larson. Northern hit the second of two free throws with 5:07 on the first quarter clock, and then the wheels came off the Wildcat Express.
The Pirates shut Cassville out for the remainder of the period and earned a 12-8 lead on Hunter Quick's toe-on-the-line deuce as time expired.
Trevor Tanner scored on a neat close-range jumper to start the second quarter, but the "Cats fell behind 17-10 on a Cook free throw and baskets by their 6-5 post Anthony Vermillion and Quick.
Northern showed he is as quick in sneakers as cleats with a couple of impressive layups late in the half, but Cook guided Crane back to a 7-point advantage at halftime, 30-23.
At the start of the third quarter, Cassville's Chris Smith traded baskets two for one with Crane's Ethan Dodson for a 27-32 score, and then the lights dimmed on the home side of the scoreboard during another 5:07 drought. The Pirates embarked on an 8-0 run, and Smith finally hit a trey from the left wing to chip the lead down to 40-30 with only 54 seconds to play in the period.
Just like the Republic game, the scoring lapse in the heart of the third quarter produced a double-digit deficit that the Wildcats could not overcome. Cook and Heston Clevenger combined for 15 of Crane's 17 fourth-quarter points as the Pirates cruised to the 61-44 final.
Larson scored 5 and Smith added 3 in the final frame for Cassville, but turnovers at critical junctures cost the Wildcats any hope of a comeback.
Cassville fell to 1-5 with the loss.
Cook didn't hurt his gaudy season average any, leading all scorers with 27. Northern topped the Cassville with 12 points, all in the first half. Smith and Larson both totaled 11, and Lewright scored 4. Three other Wildcats, Ricky Nichols, Tanner and Kyle Rhea, contributed 2 points apiece.
JT Dickinson has the right horses in the stable. The process of molding them into basketball players is well underway. Not now, not tomorrow but sometime during the season, these Wildcats will cease to be recognized as "this football player" or "that baseball player." They will be known simply as the CHS basketball team, and they will start winning the games they are supposed to win.
The Cassville boys won the JV contest with Crane, 52-14. The Wildcats built a 27-14 halftime lead and then shut the Pirates in both the third and fourth quarters. Ten different players scored for Cassville in the game. Joel Maher had 16, Ricky Nichols, Devin Linenbrink, John Cavness and Stanton Stringer contributed 5 each, Jordan Bailey, Trey Rose and Adam Prier tallied 4 each, and Rocky Young and Josh Sexton were credited with 2 each.
After a Dec. 18 date with Carthage, Coach Dickinson and his boys look forward to competing in the prestigious Blue and Gold Tournament in Springfield during the Christmas break.