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CARTHAGE INVITE: Joplin advances to championship game; Carthage falls to Ray-Pec late, Webb City earns special win for Coach Horn

Lucas Davis

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Joplin dominated the second half to earn a 51-23 win in the semifinals on Friday over West Plains to earn a trip to the championship round of the 75th annual Carthage Invitational.

In other semifinal action, host Carthage rallied back from a double-digit deficit late before Raymore-Peculiar scored with less than 10 seconds to play to hold on for a 42-40 victory. Webb City knocked off Leavenworth 59-51 in a memorable win for coach Jason Horn.



Joplin closed the third quarter on a sizable run and held West Plains off the scoreboard for the entire final eight minutes of action on the way to the 51-23 win over the Zizzers for a bid to play in the tournament title game.

“I guess you could call it choppy,” Joplin coach Bronson Schaake said. “It seemed dead the way we started, energy-wise. We gradually picked it up. … I thought we started grinding defensively. … They only had nine total points in the second half. I told them we could be a really, really good to great defensive team if we just buy in, and I saw that tonight. We need that to carry us when we aren’t shooting well.”  


Joplin guard All Wright fights to get off a floater in the Eagles’ win over West Plains in the semifinals of the Carthage Invitational on Friday. Photo by Brennan Stebbins.

After a tightly-contested first quarter, Joplin gained its first real cushion as it closed out the half with an 8-2 run. Leading 14-12, senior guard Bruce Wilbert knocked down a 3-pointer to push the lead to five before sophomore G All Wright pulled up in transition for a mid-range jumper. Senior F LT Atherton added a score on the break off a turnover and senior G Always Wright made a technical free throw with a minute to play to send the Eagles into the intermission with a 22-14 lead.

Like they did in the first half, Joplin closed the third quarter with all of the momentum thanks to a game-defining run. Holding a 26-19 advantage with 5:36 left to play, the Eagles used a 13-4 swing to build a 16-point lead with one quarter left to play.

“It was discipline,” Schaake said about what changed defensively in the second half. “We were leaving our feet on things that we shouldn’t be when we were closing out. We clamped them up. I think they got a little tired, too. … They are a physical team and I knew if we could match that, we would be alright.”

Always Wright started the run with a score off the drive before All Wright pushed the lead to 32-19 after splashing home a 3-ball from the wing with 3:50 on the clock. 

Garrett Mahan scored inside for West Plains before Joplin junior F Terrance Gibson added to the run with an offensive rebound for a putback. Always Wright stopped and stepped back in transition at the top of the key, losing his defender, and sank a 3-pointer before picking up the assist on a Whit Hafer dive to the rim on a pick-and-roll to push the lead to 39-21 with 1:10 to play.

Joplin senior Bruce Wilbert smothers West Plains’ Landon Casey in the Eagles’ win over the Zizzers on Friday. Photo by Brennan Stebbins.

“That is our mentality,” Schaake said about the importance of using defense to create offensively in transition. “We practice that way for defensive reasons because if we are not shooting well, we can get some buckets here and there from steals or deflections when we are getting out and running. That is what we are trying to build this through, the defensive end.”

Joplin locked down on the defensive end in the fourth quarter, holding the Zizzers off the scoreboard for the entire eight minutes of action while cruising to victory with 12 unanswered points in the quarter. Sophomore Quinton Renfro accounted for four points, while Always Wright, All Wright, Gibson and Hafer all added buckets.


All Wright led Joplin with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Always Wright closed with 13 points, with a pair of 3-balls. Gibson finished with nine points, eight coming in the second half. Wilbert, Hafer and Renfro each had four.



Carthage trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half only to rally and tie the game up late in the fourth before a layup from Raymore-Peculiar’s Myles Sutton inside the final 10 seconds to give the Panthers a 42-40 win over the Tigers in the first semifinal of the 75th annual Carthage Invitational on Friday. 

“There were times a lot last year that it happened the same way,” Carthage coach Nathan Morris said. “We didn’t start well and we had to fight back. I am never going to question the fight in our kids, but I told them that the first three minutes of basketball games have got to change for us. The days of getting in a 7-0 hole and having to call a timeout just aren’t going to cut it this year. We talked a lot about our guard leadership. We have got to be able to start a basketball game better than that.”

The Tigers take on West Plains in the third-place game at 3 p.m. on Saturday, while Ray-Pec takes on Joplin in the championship at 4:30.


Sophomore G Ashton Jermain led Ray-Pec with 19 points, including a game-high five 3-pointers. Senior F Tucker Miller finished in double figures with 10 points. 

Junior G Max Templeman led Carthage with 13 points, while senior G Joel Pugh, sophomore G Justin Ray and junior F Tyler Willis each added six points in the loss. 


Carthage went scoreless for the first three minutes of game action, giving Ray-Pec an opportunity to build an 8-0 lead highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from Jermain. Jermain hit two more 3-balls in the quarter to give Ray-Pec a 16-9 lead after the first period.

“I think they have to trust the work they’ve put in within our half-court offense,” Morris said about what adjustments need to be made to start games. “(Ray-Pec) did a good job of taking away sets early that we like to get into. Our kids were kind of put back on their heels by that. Once we settled in and realized that we could play basketball, we fought them really well.”

Pugh splashed home a 3-pointer to start the second quarter to cut Carthage’s deficit to four, but Jermain connected on three more 3-pointers, accounting for all of Ray-Pec’s points in the second period, to help the Panthers hold on to a 25-18 advantage at the break. Junior F Clay Kinder and Willis both added baskets for the Tigers in the second period.

Carthage senior Joel Pugh looks for room to drive in the Tigers’ loss to the Panthers on Friday. Photo by Brennan Stebbins.

Ray-Pec pushed the lead to double digits with an 8-2 run out of the intermission, with Miller accounting for six of those points.

The Panthers played with the double-digit lead for much of the third quarter before Carthage’s Templeman knocked down a long 3-pointer from the wing with 1:20 left and added a pullup jumper from the elbow to trim the margin to seven, 36-29, with eight minutes to play.

Heading into the fourth, the Tigers were in need of a run on offense, and they turned up the heat on defense to get it. Using the press at the six-minute mark, Carthage forced Ray-Pec into four turnovers over the next five minutes that led to a 9-0 run, tying the game at 40-40 with 1:03 left in regulation.

“Our kids took the challenge of one-on-one matchups,” Morris said about his team’s defense late. “We tried some zone press early in the game and they did a good job of breaking it. So, I asked the kids what they wanted to throw at them. They wanted to challenge them with full-court man. Our kids took that challenge, I just wish they would have earlier on.”

Pugh started the run with a 3-pointer from the wing before Ray added a pair of charities. Pugh pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback, converting the and-1 free throw to trim the deficit to 40-39 with 2:34 to play. Templeman tied the game with a free throw with a minute to play.

The Panthers held possession until going into their offense with 10 seconds left, with Sutton finding room on the drive to the right for a layup off the glass to give Ray-Pec the lead and eventual win.



Webb City bounced back from an opening-round defeat with a 59-51 win over Leavenworth in the Carthage Invitational consolation semifinals after erasing a slim deficit at halftime with a dominating third quarter.

The victory over Leavenworth is Webb City coach Jason Horn’s 200th of his career.

The Cardinals (2-1) went into the half trailing by one before outscoring Leavenworth 14-5 out of the break to go up nine with eight minutes to play. Webb City held serve down the stretch to preserve the win.

The Cardinals will play Fort Smith Southside in the fifth-place game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. 

Junior G Dante Washington led Webb City with 23 points, while senior F Kaden Turner finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Junior F Trey Roets had eight points, five assists and three blocks. Senior G Dupree Jackson added six points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

JaiKuan Darthard led Leavenworth with 17 points, while Eddie McLaughlin had 12.


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