The Cassville Wildcats beat a good Fair Grove team, 66-55, in the opening round of the 78th annual Liberator Tournament at Bolivar on Thursday night. But the Wildcats lost a tense defensive struggle to Morrisville on Friday night, 37-34, and then fell to host Bolivar in Saturday's third-place game, 61-35.
"We entered the Bolivar Tournament on a four-game win streak, and I think we carried that momentum into the opening round of the tournament," said Cassville's Danny Powers. "It helped that we were already very familiar with Fair Grove as we played them to a four-point game at their place earlier in the season. Fair Grove is a solid team, and that was a big win for us."
But against Morrisville, the Wildcats struggled. With John Cavness sitting out the tournament with an injury, Cassville had problems converting on offense. Still, the defense kept them in the game.
"In the second half we were able to apply a little more pressure on them defensively, and we found ourselves ahead 31-30 with 1:45 left in the fourth," Powers recalled, "but we turned the ball over underneath our own basket, resulting in a three-point play for Morrisville. We had one more opportunity to tie the game with 11 seconds left and down by 3, but our attempt fell short, and we lost a very tough, physical game."
Cassville struggled to score against Bolivar, falling behind 19-5 and 34-11 at the end of the first two quarters enroute to the 26-point loss.
"Our Thursday and Friday games were both at 8:30, so we got back after midnight both nights, and I think the late nights and emotional game against Morrisville were part of the reason for our poor performance on Saturday," said Powers. "Bolivar was a big, physical team, and they jumped on us early. Unfortunately, after rallying from behind the previous two nights, we were unable to make a run against them."
But the Wildcats made a good showing overall in the tournament. After being designated as the sixth seed, they played within four points of making the final.
The Cassville Wildcats now own a 10-10 season record with five games remaining before the district tournament.