Cassville eyes conference title
Lady ‘Cats control destiny in Big 8 West
As the girls basketball season comes into its final weeks of play, the Cassville squad is focused on one major goal — a Big 8 West title.
Tom Hubbard, Lady Wildcats coach, said his players hold their destiny in their hands, as every team in the division is saddled with one loss.
Cassville defeated McDonald County early in the season, but fell to Seneca on Jan. 12. In their last contest, the Lady Wildcats topped Lamar, 45-33, leaving home games against East Newton on Feb. 1 and Nevada on Jan. 5, plus a road contest in Monett on Feb. 8. Cassville was scheduled to play Sarcoxie on Thursday, but that game was canceled due to COVID. The next contest is Friday at Pittsburg (Kan.), and the team will participate in the Mansfield Tournament from Jan. 25-30.
“All the teams in our conference have one loss, so we feel we control our own destiny in that aspect,” Hubbard said. “The East Newton, Nevada and Monett games are the most important, but we also have not beaten Sarcoxie in a couple years. They have one girl who is lighting up the scoreboard right now. She scored 54 against Crane. Then, we will go to the Mansfield Tournament and play some teams we have never seen before. It won’t be easy, but it will help us prepare for the rest of conference play and districts.”
Hubbard said his team, at 10-6, is already at the win mark from last year, and the victories have spawned a change in culture for the team.
“These seniors hardly won any games in middle school, but they are performing well against the same conference teams now,” he said. “We have had to learn how to handle winning, staying on course and not letting any outside noise affect us or things go to our heads. We have to continue to do what has gotten us to this point.”
Along with that learning curve is a new level of expectations.
“The culture of this basketball team has grown to start expecting to win and to compete at a higher level,” Hubbard said. “You can see that in the way we practice and the way we play. There is also a higher level of accountability than in the past.”
One of the most notable successes of the team this season has been winning the Southwest Holiday Tournament. The Lady Wildcats were favorites, but no wins are guaranteed, and the hardware did not come easy.
“In our first game [against Southwest], we played hard and with purpose,” Hubbard said. “We also played well defensively. In the next game against Marionville, we came out like gangbusters, and they had a girl score 29 on us. We guarded her well, and she just could not be stopped. But, we never panicked, and we held on for a 2-point win.”
In the championship bout, the Lady Wildcats and Wheaton went into double overtime to decide the winner. Cassville had played the Lady Bulldogs a couple weeks prior, holding on in the last three minutes for a win.
“In the tournament, they jumped on us, but again, we never panicked,” Hubbard said. “We problem-solved and found a way at the end to tie the game.”
In overtime, fouls gave Cassville an opportunity. Down 2, the Lady Wildcats missed a 1-for-1 free throw, but grabbed the offensive board and tied the game again with only seconds to play.
“In the second overtime, we hit a couple of field goals and got up,” Hubbard said. “I was proud of the girls winning that tournament because we had a business approach. We came in with purpose and played that way. At that point, we’d won about six or seven games in a row, and that got us looking forward to doing something that hadn’t happened in a while in competing for the conference title.”
Hubbard said he hopes the Southwest Tournament win and competing in Mansfield next week will be good experiences for his team as the postseason approaches.
Cassville’s game at Sarcoxie Thursday is scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip-off.