CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — After seeing a 21-point lead nearly evaporate, the Carl Junction Bulldogs got the job done when crunch time arrived.
In a physical back and forth clash, Carl Junction held on late for a 62-58 victory over Springdale (Ark.) on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the 46th Freeman Sports Medicine CJ Classic.
“These are the kind of games we want early in the season,” Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter said. “Springdale plays so hard and they are going to win a lot of games this year. We saw two completely different brands of basketball the last two nights. Neosho has size and Springdale has quickness. We were able to handle both of them, so we feel good. We had some kids step up and tonight was a good game for us for sure.”
Carl Junction built a 21-point lead in the second half, but the host Bulldogs had to withstand Springdale’s late surge for what could be described as a hard-fought win.
Springdale cut its deficit to four late in the game, but the hosts never relinquished their lead.
“Our kids kept fighting,” Shorter said. “It could have easily went south, but they hung in there and kept fighting. We needed a game like this because it’s hard to simulate that kind of speed in practice. This game is going to be good for us later in the year.”
The tourney hosts will meet Nevada at 8:30 on Thursday night in the championship game. It’s a rematch of last year’s title game that the Bulldogs won.
In a showdown between Bulldogs, Carl Junction raced out to a 16-4 lead after a pair of hoops from senior guard Destiny Buerge. The hosts’ lead was 16-8 at the end of the first frame.
Carl Junction took a 23-13 lead after back-to-back putbacks by Kylie Scott, but Springdale forced the hosts into a number of turnovers with their full-court pressure defense, and in the process, the visitors cut their deficit down to two.
But the hosts finished the first half on an 8-0 surge, as Buerge and Scott had one bucket apiece and Dezi Williams scored twice in the paint.
Those points gave Carl Junction a 31-21 halftime advantage.
Carl Junction scored the first nine points of the second half, as Scott made a free throw, Klohe Burk and Buerge buried treys and Burk knocked down a midrange jumper for a 40-21 cushion.
The visitors stopped the run, but CJ soon held a 21-point lead at 45-24 with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Springdale didn’t quit, however, as the visiting Bulldogs reeled off 12 straight points to pull within eight.
Buerge drained a key 3-pointer to stop Springdale’s spurt, giving CJ a 49-38 lead entering the fourth period.
Carl Junction held a 57-45 lead with three minutes to play when Springdale used a 10-2 run to get within four with 45 seconds remaining.
The hosts wouldn’t be denied. Buerge sank two charities, the visitors turned the ball over and Williams made one of two attempts at the foul line to seal the win. Springdale hit a late trey for the final margin.
“It was a game of runs,” Shorter said. “And it’s November basketball, so it can be pretty ugly at times. But we’ll get there.”
Ranked third in Class 5 by the MBCA, Carl Junction improved to 2-0.
A Pittsburg State signee, the 5-foot-8 Buerge poured in 25 points to lead Carl Junction. She hit four treys, grabbed five boards and had four steals.
A 6-3 junior forward, Scott recorded a double-double with 15 points and 21 rebounds.
Burk added 11 points and Williams had nine points and four steals.
Hali Shorter handed out four assists and grabbed three rebounds.
Three players reached double figures for Springdale, as Adriana Hernandez scored 17, Charleen Hudson had 15 and Aubriana Wilson added 14.
Coach Shorter noted Springdale’s speedy guard-oriented team was not easy to defend. The visitors, who are now 4-1 on the season, hit 10 3-pointers and forced CJ into more than 20 turnovers.
“We tried to rest Destiny, but we didn’t handle the ball very well,” Coach Shorter said. “But seeing those things means we know what we need to work on. Our girls realize that.”
In the other semifinal, Nevada topped Parkview 61-55.
In Tuesday’s consolation action, Neosho pounded Mount Vernon 66-38 and McDonald County beat Seneca 51-38.
NEOSHO 66, MOUNT VERNON 38
Neosho scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.
The Wildcats led 20-5 at the end of the first quarter before extending their lead to 20 late in the first half at 38-18.
Up 40-24 at halftime, Neosho started the third quarter on a 14-0 run to take a 30-point lead and put the game way out of reach.
Senior post player Karlee Ellick scored 27 points on 13 field goals and a free throw to lead Neosho. The 6-2 Ellick scored 18 points in the first half.
Sophomore Beclynn Garrett added eight points and senior Maelynn Garrett had seven for the Wildcats (2-3).
Sophomore Addie Hall led the Mountaineers (1-2) with 19 points, while classmate Cheyenne Bieber added 10. Grant Berendt’s Mount Vernon squad features just one senior and no juniors.
MCDONALD COUNTY 51, SENECA 38
The Mustangs led 13-8 at the end of the opening period.
McDonald County was up 27-15 at halftime and the Mustangs held a 39-30 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Junior Anna Clarkson led the Mustangs (2-1) with 16 points and freshman Carlie Martin scored 14 points.
Sophomore Hazley Grotjohn led Seneca with 14 points, while senior Parker Long and junior Samarah Mittag added nine points apiece for the Indians (1-2).
NEVADA 61, PARKVIEW 55
The game was tied at 12 at the end of the first quarter before Nevada took a 31-24 lead into intermission.
The Tigers (2-1) led 47-39 at the end of the third quarter and they never surrendered their lead in the final frame.
Senior Abbey Heathman scored 26 points for Nevada, while junior Clara Swearingen added 22 and senior Maddy Majors chipped in 11.
Tara Masten scored 22 points for Parkview (2-1).
4 p.m. —Mount Vernon vs. Seneca (7th place)
5:30—Neosho vs. McDonald County (5th place)
7—Parkview vs. Springdale (3rd place)
8:30—Carl Junction vs. Nevada (Title game)