The last time the Cardinals were on the floor, they suffered a tightly-contested loss to Joplin in the Kaminsky Classic championship game on Saturday. Webb City righted that wrong in just three days time with a 60-57 overtime win over the Eagles on Tuesday to kick off the Central Ozark Conference portion of the schedule.
“We were disappointed that we weren’t able to repeat as Kaminsky Classic champions, but we felt like we lost the game on Saturday,” Webb City coach Jason Horn said. “We controlled our own destiny and didn’t capitalize. We came in today and we were a little tight early, but we loosened up, got into the flow and started doing some things we are good at. I told the guys, ‘At the end of the day, just relax and execute and we are going to be fine. You are going to make the right play. If you win, awesome. If you lose, it’s a basketball game and we will get better tomorrow in practice.’ They loosened up and did what they needed to do.”
The game played much like you would expect between two quality programs in the same conference that just played each other. There were 11 ties and 19 lead changes, and the largest lead at any point was five points, which was held by Webb City late in the third quarter. Free-throw shooting played a large role in the outcome as well. During the last minute of the fourth quarter through the overtime period, Joplin was 4-of-9 shooting from the charity stripe while Webb City converted at an 8-for-10 rate at the foul line over the same stretch of play.
“It’s huge,” Horn said when asked about the importance of free-throw shooting. “Going back to last Saturday (in the championship game), we missed some free throws that could have changed the game early on. We were able to capitalize (today) and make them down the stretch. We caught a break that they missed a few. You have to capitalize on free points when they are giving them to you.”
The win gives Webb City a 9-3 overall record and 1-0 start to conference play, while Joplin falls to 10-2, 0-1 COC.
“In the COC, you can’t take any game off or any game for granted,” Horn said. “It’s nice to start 1-0, but we can only enjoy this for a little bit because we have to get ready for Ozark. There are no easy nights.”
“I thought it was two really good teams going at it,” Joplin coach Bronson Schaake said. “It was back and forth. We had our chances at the end of regulation and in overtime. Those little things that you don’t cash in on will come back and get you against good times. But, I thought I saw some other guys step up when we needed it and be role players, which was good. We will build on this.”
DOWN THE STRETCH
After a third quarter that saw six lead changes and both teams tied at 40, the lead never reached more than four points for either Webb City or Joplin.
The Cardinals took the first momentum swing of the fourth after Kaden Turner grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback and Dante Washington scored on the drive to give Webb City a 46-42 lead.
The Eagles rallied to take a four-point lead of their own with less than a minute left in regulation with an 8-0 run, the largest of the game by any team in the game. Always Wright and Bruce Wilbert buried 3-pointers off the inbounds pass on consecutive possessions to get the lead back for Joplin before Wright was perfect on two free throws to make the score 52-48 with 51 seconds to play.
Webb City’s Cohl Vaden brought the Cardinals to within one of the lead after driving for a bucket, drawing contact and sinking the and-1 free throw with 26.9 ticks left to make the score 52-51. After a Joplin missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one, Trey Roets drew contact under the basket before sinking two free throws with 8.1 seconds left to give Webb City a 53-52 lead.
Always Wright drew a foul in the backcourt with 6.1 seconds, making the first free throw and missing the second to send the game into overtime tied at 53-53.
LT Atherton made one of two free throws early in the overtime period to give Joplin a one-point lead, but Webb City scored the next five points on two charities by Turner before Roets came up with a momentum-turning three-point play on a bucket inside with 1:57 left to put Webb City up 58-54.
“Trey puts a lot of time in on his own,” Horn said. “There are a lot of nights I am opening the gym for him and letting him get extra work in. That work is paying off. He hit some big 3s tonight. He is a kid who can play with his back to the basket, but what makes him versatile is when we put him in that pinch-post area around the top of the key—if you don’t guard him, he can make shots. He was big on the free-throw line late and he was strong around the basket. He made some great moves, had some big blocks and some big rebounds. He did a good job patrolling.”
Joplin was empty on two chances at the stripe on the next possession, but Always Wright knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:04 to play to bring the Eagles within one of the lead, 58-57.
Those were the last points for Joplin, while Webb City pushed the lead to 60-57 after making two of its four free throws in the final minute of play to seal the conference-opening win.
“I thought we showed a lot of mental toughness,” Horn said. “The ball didn’t bounce our way there a couple times in the last couple of minutes and I thought we made some mistakes that were uncharacteristic of us, but we showed a lot of resolve. We bounced back and made winning plays there at the end when we needed to—guys hitting big free throws with a lot of pressure on them—and you have to give (Joplin) a lot of credit because they played hard. … Offensively, we were solid there (at the end of regulation) and through overtime. We got a couple of good looks and our guys capitalized on it.”
Turner led Webb City with 24 points and 10 rebounds to close with a double-double. Roets had three 3-pointers on the way to 17 points and nine rebounds to go along with a game-high four blocks, while Vaden finished with 13 points and three assists.
Always Wright led Joplin with 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks, while All Wright had15 points and seven rebounds with one block. Terrance Gibson had seven points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals, with Atherton finishing with six points and four rebounds.
Webb City continues conference play with the Cardinals hosting Ozark on Friday.
Joplin hosts Branson in a COC contest on Friday.