After a sluggish win over McAuley in the opening round of the Southwest Holiday Tournament, the Wildcats suffered a diappointing 62-50 loss to the Wheaton Bulldogs on Tuesday night. In addition to the defeat, Cassville absorbed a string of injuries during the game:
* Joel Maher left with an injury in the first quarter and did not return.
* Ricky Nichols was down and dazed in the second quarter after a head-on collision, but Cassville's gritty point guard shook off the cobwebs and stayed in the fray.
* John Cavness was down for an eerie 18 minutes after an awkward fall late in the fourth quarter before gingerly making his way to the bench.
The Wildcats opened the game with a slick alley-oop to Nichols for a 2-0 lead, but Wheaton answered with an 11-2 run. A Kyle Robbins' trey gave the Bulldogs an 11-4 lead with 4:51 left in the opening frame.
Maher fouled Jory Bartkoski while disrupting a fast break layup and crashed into the padded wall in the last minute of the period. He got to his feet but could not continue.
Garrett Kirk threw in a wild three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Wheaton lead to 15-11.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats used a 9-0 spurt to take a 27-24 lead, capped by a Nichols' lob to Ethan Lowery for an easy bucket. The Bulldogs fought back to tie the game at 29-29 and then took a 35-31 halftime lead.
Cassville 50, Pea Ridge 48
With Maher unavailable on Wednesday night, the consensus opinion was that Pea Ridge, Ark., would overwhelm Cassville. But the Wildcats jumped to a 13-7 first quarter lead and pushed to a 19-11 advantage with 3:11 to play in the second period. The Blackhawks responded with a 9-0 run to end the half, and Cassville trailed by 20-19 at intermission.
Whatever Danny Powers drew up at halftime worked. The Wildcats flew to a 14-0 run to start the third quarter and led 33-20 when Nichols banged home an alley-oop layup. Pea Ridge answered with an 11-0 run to end the quarter, and Cassville led by only 33-31 at the final break.
The Blackhawks forged ahead in the fourth quarter, leading by 46-40 with 2:57 to play. John Cavness swished a trey from the deep corner to tie the score at 48-48 with 1:11 remaining.
Free throws made this game more exciting than it should have been. The Wildcats missed four of six attempts in the final 37 seconds to keep the Pea Ridge hopes alive.
Trailing by 49-48 with six seconds left on the clock, the Blackhawks suffered a five-count when they couldn't inbound the ball at halfcourt. Cavness sank one of two from the line for a 50-48 Cassville lead, and then Dakota Woodward was wide with a desperation shot at the buzzer.
"Any win is a good win for us right now," noted Powers after the game.
Nichols, who led the Wildcats with 16 points in the win, said, "This tournament was a turning point for us last year. Hopefully, we can build off this again."
Cassville scorers: Ricky Nichols, 16; Garrett Kirk, 11; Ethan Lowery, 9; John Cavness, 6; Jordan Shore, 4; and Connor Redmon, 4.
Pea Ridge scorers: Dakota Woodward, 17; Jacob Hall, 9; Levi Pitts, 6; Evan Tillman, 3; Cameron Tidwell, 2; and Logan Rose, 1.
East Newton 51,
In Thursday's fifth-place game, East Newton ground out a 51-44 victory over Cassville.
The Wildcats reached the first break with a 10-10 tie when Nichols swished a trey at the buzzer and then took a 22-20 halftime lead when Cavness rebounded a Nichols' miss and scored at that buzzer.
But East Newton's Tucker Anderson took over in the third period, scoring 6 points and propelling the Patriots to a 37-33 lead. The Wildcats would not lead again in this contest as East Newton held on for a 51-44 victory.
Cassville scorers: Ricky Nichols, 15; John Cavness, 9; Garrett Kirk, 6; Logan Scott, 6; Ethan Lowery, 4; Ty Craig, 2; and Justin Pflug, 2.
East Newton scorers: Tucker Anderson, 17; Sam Swartz, 11; Andrew Hightower, 10; John Hansen, 9; and Colby Thomas, 4.