The Cassville Wildcats struggled offensively before making a final surge and dropped their season opener 65-56 to the Galena Bulldogs on Friday night at home.
The visitors from Kansas held a 49-30 advantage with just 3:22 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats came to life, finishing the period with a 14-4 run to pull within 8 points.
Cassville chipped away at the lead in the fourth quarter and trailed by only 61-56 with 54 seconds to play. But Galena scored the final 4 points of the contest to claim the victory and avenge last year's 48-41 loss to Cassville.
The Wildcats took an early 4-0 lead behind a pair of Joel Maher free throws and a steal and layup by Garrett Kirk. Galena answered with a 16-0 run that included scores from all five Bulldog starters.
Cassville responded with a 5-0 burst, fueled by a Ricky Nichols steal at half court and accompanying layup, but the Bulldogs posted the final 7 points of the quarter and led 23-9 at the first break.
Throughout the second quarter and most of the third, the game was a downward spiral for Cassville. The Wildcats could not score out of their half court offense, and Galena came up with critical rebounds and loose ball opportunities while stretching the lead to 19 points on several occasions.
The furious comeback gave the Cassville crowd reason to cheer and showcased the kind of play the Wildcats are capable of. But it was also a case of too little, too late.
Cassville's Danny Powers managed the game well, slowing Galena's momentum with timeouts and then keeping a parade of players at the scorer's table while battling foul problems in the late going. But this was truly one of those games where the Wildcats left the impression that they didn't get beaten -- they just ran out of time.
Cassville scorers: Joel Maher, 17; Ricky Nichols, 14; Garrett Kirk, 9; Ethan Lowery, 8; John Cavness, 4; Logan Scott,2; and Jordan Shore, 2.
Galena scorers: Devin Newman, 14; Ray Slimp, 12; Chad Shepherd, 10; Tylor Albright, 10; Zac Gougler, 9; JJ Helton, 4; Levi Sturgis, 4; Zach Roberts, 1; and Ty Albright, 1.
The Wildcats will host the Republic Tigers on Friday night at the high school gymnasium.