CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Raymore-Peculiar Panthers may have dictated the tempo for the majority of the night, but the Joplin Eagles were the team that left town with a tourney championship.
Joplin made winning plays down the stretch and grinded out a 42-39 victory over Ray-Pec on Saturday night in the championship game of the 75th Carthage Invitational.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but I think that’s what Ray-Pec was wanting to do,” Joplin coach Bronson Schaake said. “They do a good job of moving the ball with 30-40 second possessions. They ran a 58 second possession yesterday. They want to move the ball until they get clean looks.
“On the other end, they just overloaded everything and kind of dared us to do something,” Schaake added. “It took us a while to figure out the gaps that were open. But we made plays when we needed to. That’s a good grinder for us to pull out.”
The game was deadlocked at six at the end of the low-scoring first quarter, and the Eagles led 17-16 at halftime.
The lead went back and forth in the third period, but Brantley Morris’ 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Joplin a 28-26 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Quin Renfro gave the Eagles a boost with five straight points early in the final frame, and then Always Wright generated five straight points to give JHS a 38-37 lead with 1:22 left.
Down one with time running out, Ray-Pec patiently ran its halfcourt offense, but the Panthers turned the ball over with 25 seconds remaining, with Bruce Wilbert coming up with the steal.
Joplin’s Terrance Gibson scored in transition the other way to extend the Eagles’ lead to three.
After a timeout, the Panthers chose not to attempt a potential game-tying trey, but instead received a hoop inside from Ryker Nelson with three seconds left on the clock.
Following a foul, All Wright calmly sank two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to give Joplin a 42-39 lead.
The Panthers’ last-second heave was off the mark, and the Eagles began celebrating a hard-fought tournament championship.
The Eagles won the tourney for the first time since 2017.
Senior guard Always Wright, the tourney’s Most Valuable Player, scored 13 points to lead the Eagles, while sophomore guard All Wright added eight points. All Wright was also listed on the all-tourney team.
Renfro, a sophomore guard, contributed nine points off the bench.
“He stepped it up,” Schaake said. “We were looking for energy. Quin is getting better and better.”
Gibson, a junior forward, chipped in six points, with none bigger than his late layup after the key turnover.
“Terrance really stepped up,” Schaake said. “That finish was huge. I wanted a dunk, but I’m just glad he made it.”
The Eagles are off to a 5-0 start under Schaake, who noted there’s still work to do.
“I look at our team and I know it’s nowhere near a finished product,” Schaake said. “We haven’t done much with sets. We’ve mainly been focusing on the defensive end. I think we’re getting there. We’ll keep at it as we go.”
Joplin hosts Springfield Central next Friday in the home opener.
CARTHAGE INVITATIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Always Wright, Joplin (MVP)
All Wright, Joplin
Ashton Jermain, Raymore-Peculiar
Joel Pugh, Carthage
Max Templeman, Carthage
Sean Tinsley, West Plains
Kaden Turner, Webb City
Eddie McLaughlin, Leavenworth
Tucker Miller, Raymore-Peculiar
Yazed Taforo, Ft. Smith Southside