Wildcats even record with exciting 52-51 comeback victory
The Cassville Wildcats basketball team, 2-3 on the season, mounted a late comeback and nipped the Fair Grove Eagles by a point on Dec. 18 at Cassville.
Ethan Lowery played one of the best games of his career scoring 19 points and lead the Wildcats to the 52-51 victory.
"We really needed a win," said Cassville's Danny Powers. "This season, we figured we might have some trouble putting points on the board, especially early as we lost our top three scorers from a season ago. Our seniors and underclassman are starting to buy into our offensive and defensive system."
Unlike many teams, Cassville did not start the season with a tournament. The inequity in game experience cost the Wildcats early in the schedule, especially against Republic and Carthage, two very talented teams. But against Fair Grove, Cassville's boys played together better, and mounted a ferocious fourth-quarter run to recover from a 10-point deficit with just 5:54 to play.
The two teams battled to a 10-10 tie to end the first quarter, after Cassville opened the game with a 6-1 run.
Logan Scott knotted the score at 19-19 with a pair of free throws midway through the second quarter. The Eagles spurted to a 27-22 lead. Garrett Kirk found Ty Craig open with a lob, and Craig's shot kissed off the glass to the echo of the buzzer. Fair Grove's lead was cut to 27-24 at the half.
The Eagles led 38-34 at the final break and then opened the final frame with a 9-3 run for that 47-37 lead.
Saddled with early foul trouble, Lowery played sparingly in the first half, and scored only 6 points for the Wildcats. Cassville's big center scored 6 more in the third period, and 7 in the fourth as the 'Cats roared back to secure the win.
Whenever Cassville needed a big shot, a defensive stop, or a rebound, Lowery answered the call.
More often than not, Lowery won the battle in the paint, scoring repeatedly with soft lobs from his teammates.
Trailing 48-41, the Wildcats pounced into the lead with an 8-0 run. Lowery scored with a right-handed hook from the baseline, and then Connor Redmon swished Cassville's only trey of the night from the left corner. Kirk hit a free throw, and Lowery fed Scott inside for a layup and the 49-48 lead.
With the game tied at 51 apiece, Lowery hit the first of two free throws to give Cassville a 52-51 lead, and the Eagles called time with eight seconds remaining. Fair Grove's Brock Derrick, who authored a pair of long treys earlier in the fourth quarter, missed on his final attempt and the clock expired as the teams wrestled for the rebound.
"We knew it was going to be tough early, but we also hope our kids learn from our tough early season schedule and use those challenges to be successful come conference and district time," said Powers. "We would like nothing more than to be sitting three and two, coming off two straight wins against quality opponents to challenge a much improved and impressive Pea Ridge basketball team at the Southwest Holiday Tournament."
Scoring for Cassville: Lowery, 19 points; Kirk, 9; Redman, 8; Ty Craig and Scott, 6 each; and Cole Beagle, 4.
Scoring for Fair Grove: Michael Thomas, 13 points; Jayden Happel, 12; Derrick and Deric Link, 10; Jacob Maggard, 4; and Talon Bates, 2.
The host Crane Pirates defeated Cassville Dec. 21 though, and the 71-54 loss reversed the hoped-for overall record.
The Wildcats will play Pea Ridge at 9 PM on Wednesday night in the first round of the Southwest Holiday Tournament.