The Wildcats claimed the first place trophy at the 30th annual Southwest Holiday Tournament with a thrilling 64-57 victory over a talented Pea Ridge Blackhawks squad.
Brady Chastain, of Billings, and Jacob Hall, of Pea Ridge, both scored 26 points in a long range shooting exhibition, but the play of Billings' senior guard Austin Essick made the difference.
Overlooked in the frantic pace of the final two periods was Billings' stellar free-throw shooting. The Wildcats hit all eight of their second half attempts from the line and connected on 14 of their 15 tries for the game.
The Wildcats' victory marked the first time this century that Missouri schools have won the Holiday tournament in back-to-back years.
Hollister claims third
Hollister downed Southwest in the third place game, 64-56. Southwest led 26-23 at the half, but an 18 point third quarter propelled the Tigers into the lead and erased the hopes of the host team.
Southwest's James Pettit led all scorers with 28 points. Andy Wenger, of Hollister, scored 22.
Cassville sinks Wheaton, 54-53
The Cassville Wildcats nipped Wheaton in a fifth place game that will be remembered most for its bizarre final seconds.
The Wildcats led 17-12 after one period, but a long scoring drought allowed Wheaton to take a 26-23 lead at the intermission.
Cassville regained the lead at the final break, 37-34, but then Wheaton spurted back in front with consecutive treys from Chase Cantwell and Matt Hickman.
Wheaton led 42-37 early in the fourth quarter, prompting a Cassville timeout by Danny Powers.
"You're getting outworked," Powers barked at his Wildcats in the huddle, and he challenged them to play harder and better.
In quick succession, Ethan Lowery rolled through the lane for a score, Logan Scott hooped Garrett Kirk's miss at the rim, and then Kirk tiptoed the baseline for a basket that gave Cassville a 43-42 lead.
The Wildcats appeared to have the game in hand when Kirk sank a pair of free throws to earn a 52-47 lead with just 36 seconds remaining. But Wheaton's Hickman buried a long trey to cut the lead in half and then the Wildcats turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play.
Cantwell followed with another 3-pointer to give the Buldogs a 53-52 lead with 12 ticks remaining, and the Wheaton cheering section erupted.
While Cantwell's shot stood, a loose ball foul was called against Wheaton on the play, and the teams walked to the other end of the court. Scott sank two pressure-packed free throws to regain the lead for Cassville at 54-53.
The Bulldogs missed twice in the final seconds, and Cassville's Lowery cradled a rebound as the clock expired.
Both teams had seven players in the scoring column in the game. Kirk led Cassville with 15 points. Lowery (14) and Scott (12) also reached double figures. Cantwell's 14 points paced Wheaton, with Matt Hickman scoring 10.
East Newton beats Haas Hall for seventh place
When two teams play for seventh place in an eight -team tournament, someone is going home 0-3 for the week. The East Newton Patriots pitched a shutout for over 11 minutes, and subbed liberally in the second half in a 55-26 win over the Haas Hall Mastiffs from Fayetteville, Ark.
The Patriots led 24-4 at halftime in a game that was never in doubt.
East Newton's sophomore post Bryce Zimmerman led all scorers with 16. Justin Rainey scored 10 for Haas Hall.
The Southwest Holiday Tournament continued on Dec. 27, with mixed results for area teams. In the consolation bracket, both Cassville and Wheaton posted wins, while Southwest was handled by Billings in the semifinals of the winner's bracket.
The Cassville Wildcats pulled away after a 10-10 first quarter and defeated Big 8 rival East Newton, 61-53.
The Cassville-East Newton game featured a matchup of two accomplished centers: Lowery, of the Wildcats and Zimmerman of the Patriots. Though Zimmerman outscored Lowery 24-14, Cassville's big man controlled the boards and the tempo while leading his team to victory.
The crowd enjoyed a taste of Big 8 basketball. The physical style of play led to some chippy moments, and the East Newton bench drew a technical foul midway through the third period.
The Wildcats already held a double-digit lead at that point, led by the opportunistic play and scoring of Kirk.
The Patriots made a late run, drawing within 55-48 in the final minute. But Scott sank a pair of free throws and then scored with a steal to push the lead back to 11 as Cassville rolled to the 61-53 victory.
Scoring for Cassville: Kirk, 24; Lowery, 14; Scott, 11; Conner Redmon, 6; Ty Craig, 4; and Jordan Shore, 2.
East Newton scorers: Zimmerman, 24; Swartz, 15; Colby Thomas, 9; Aaron Miller, 3; and Deion Clark, 2.
Haas Hall, 55-44
The Wheaton Bulldogs raced to a 12-3 lead over Haas Hall Academy behind three early baskets by Jory Bartkoski, and Rusty Roe's team led at halftime, 27-16.
The Mastiffs cut down on turnovers and played solid defense in the third quarter and pulled within 41-32 at the final break.
Wheaton pulled away to a 17-point lead on a Tyler Musick basket with 4:14 to play, and the Bulldogs cruised to the 55-44 win.
Wheaton scorers: Bartkoski, 18; Musick, 9; Justin Walker, 8; Hickman and Darrell Burns, 6 each; and Cantwell and Justin Yeary, 4 apiece.
Haas Hall was led by Rainey with 15 points.
Billings Wildcats wore out the nets, taking a 92-55 win over the host Trojans
After losing to Southwest in last year's semifinals, the Billings Wildcats played the revenge card with a 92-55 destruction of the Trojans.
Essick led the Billings assault, scoring 34 points.
The Wildcats had four players in double figures with Chad Yeokum scoring 22, and Dawson Meyer adding 21.
The Billings' dominance overshadowed a 29 point performance by Southwest's James Pettit.
Scoring for Southwest: Pettit, 29 points; Jordan Epling, 9; Drew Farrer, 6; Josh Cutberth, Brad Daniels and Blake Barnes, 3 each; Robbie Randall, 2.
Scoring for Billings: Essick, 34 points; Yeokum, 22; Meyer, 21; and Chastain, 15.
Pea Ridge downed Hollister in the late semifinal to finish the day's bracket play.
The annual Southwest Holiday Tournament opened at Washburn on Dec. 26 with a gift bag full of games.
The Pea Ridge Blackhawks, winners of five of the last seven editions of the Southwest Holiday Tournament, downed the Cassville Wildcats with a 49-47 comeback victory in the best game of the night.
Cassville never led in the first half and trailed 26-19 at intermission, but stormed into the lead with an 11-0 run to start the third period. The Wildcats took a 47-44 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the contest on a pair of Kirk free throws.
Hall of the Blackhawks nailed his fourth trey to tie the game, and Tillman sank an underhanded circus shot with three seconds on the clock to give Pea Ridge the win.
Scoring for Cassville: Lowery, 14 points; Kirk, 9; Scott, 9; Craig, 8; Beagle, 5; and Kayleb Sparks, 2.
Scoring for Pea Ridge: Hall and Levi Pitts, 15 points apiece; Tillman, 8; Gage Kelso, 6; Nick DeLeon, 3; and Isaac Mangrum, 2.
In the 6 p.m. game, the host Southwest Trojans survived a torrid Wheaton comeback to win 45-44.
After an early 7-7 tie, the Trojans spurted to a 21-12 lead at the first break and never trailed again in the contest. Southwest's reserve center Robbie "The Diesel" Randall scored to give the Trojans a 10-point lead with three minutes to play. But the Bulldogs staged a furious comeback and pulled within a point when Bartkoski drained a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.
Wheaton had a chance but Yeary's desperate, off-balance attempt was wide at the buzzer.
Scoring for Southwest: Cutberth and Pettit, 17 points each; Epling, 5; Barnes, 4; and Robbie Randall, 2.
Scoring for Wheaton: Bartkoski, 22 points; Cantwell, 8; Yeary, 5; Burns, 4; Hickman, 3; and Musick, 2.
Hollister had three scorers in double figures as the Tigers handed East Newton a 54-42 defeat. East Newton's Zimmerman of the Patriots led all scorers with 17 points.
Top-seeded Billings downed Haas Hall Academy by an 87-54 count in the opening match. Hall, a charter school hung with the Wildcats early, but the withering full-court pressure of Billings turned the game into a steal-and-layup drill in the second quarter. Billings led by as many as 35 points before the running clock expired.