The Southwest Trojans controlled the tempo and poured in free throws to take a non-conference home win over Diamond on Tuesday, Dec. 20. The Trojans took a 60-51 decision from the Wildcats in a rough and physical game.
Southwest players hit 30 of 37 free-throw attempts in the game, and sealed the victory by sinking 19 of 21 freebies in the fourth quarter.
Area fans remember the good old days of the then-Ozark 8 Conference when the Southwest-Diamond rivalry was one of the most intense. The encounters have lost a little of the luster since the Wildcats abandoned the conference, but district implications and plain old bragging rights are more than enough to raise the temps when these two schools collide.
Southwest led 9-8 after one methodical period of play with Skylar Knoll bulling his way for a pair of inside baskets. The Trojans built a 23-15 lead in a second quarter highlighted by Jeff Elkins' alley-oop pass for Josh Cutberth hoop. But the Wildcats finished the half with a 9-2 run and trailed by just a point, 25-24, at half.
The Trojans trailed in this game for only 22 seconds in the third period when Diamond assumed a 29-28 lead. Knoll answered for the Trojans at that point, snaring an offensive board and converting to regain the lead, and then Jordan Epling swished a trey as the Trojans enjoyed their own 9-2 run to reach the final break with a 37-31 advantage.
Diamond went to the foul game early in the last stanza but Southwest's shooters coolly made shot after shot from the line. The Wildcats cut the lead to 51-46 with 1:18 remaining, but a steal and basket by Elkins and a technical foul on the Diamond bench resulted in four more made free throws and sent the margin back into double digits.
Jason Horn's Trojans scored 19 of their 23 fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line in a remarkable clutch performance.
The win gave Southwest a 5-3 overall mark heading into the 29th Annual Southwest Holiday Tournament. Diamond fell to 5-2 with the loss.
Southwest scorers: Skylar Knoll, 12, Tyler Ferguson, 12; Jordan Epling, 9; Travis Hayworth, 9; Josh Cutberth, 6; James Pettit, 6; Jeff Elkins, 6.
Diamond scorers: Logan Myers, 15; Ryan Jinks, 11; Kyle Heman, 8; Scott Corn, 8; Jared Huffman, 4; Chance Hardy, 3; Trent Hayes, 2.