CARTHAGE, Mo. — Carl Junction scored 16 of the first 19 points of the fourth quarter and then held on late for a hard-fought 53-48 victory over Carthage on Tuesday night in the Central Ozark Conference opener for both teams.
“That’s a great win,” Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter said. “Any win in the COC is good. And Carthage is really good. I was impressed with how hard they played. They’ve got some quick kids and they push the ball up the floor well. Coach (Scott) Moore is doing a really good job with them. So it’s a great win for us for sure.”
The back and forth clash was deadlocked at 32 at the end of the third quarter before the Bulldogs pulled away with a game-changing surge to start the fourth period.
“For us, it wasn’t so much their offensive spurt, but we just missed some shots,” Carthage’s Moore said. “We were getting the shots we wanted. Yeah, we had a turnover or two, but we missed some runners that were just short and we missed some 3s that rattled out. This game would have been an entirely different result if we didn’t have that lull to start the fourth quarter and the lull to start the second quarter. In the second quarter, we dug ourselves out. In the fourth quarter, we couldn’t overcome that lull.”
Ranked fifth in Class 5 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, Carl Junction hiked its record to 11-3 and 1-0 in the COC.
Junior guard Destiny Buerge poured in a game-high 29 points with a trio of 3-pointers. Buerge scored 15 of CJ’s 21 first-half points and then added 14 after the break.
Sophomore forward Kylie Scott scored 13 points for the Bulldogs, while junior guard Klohe Burk added seven.
Junior guard Kianna Yates scored 20 points and hit four treys to lead Carthage, while freshman guard Lauren Choate contributed 15 points with three 3-pointers.
“That’s the second game in a row where she’s shot the ball well,” Moore said of Choate. “She’s a kid that has that ability. We expect her to knock down four or five 3s every night for us.”
Freshman guard Maggie Boyd added six points on a pair of 3-pointers for the Tigers, who fell to 6-8 overall and 0-1 in the COC.
The conference opener for both teams was deadlocked at 10 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
Five straight points from Buerge gave the Bulldogs a 17-12 lead, but the Tigers responded with a 10-1 run to go up 22-18.
During the spurt, Choate scored eight points on two corner treys and a hoop in the lane, while Sophie Shannon added a bucket in the paint.
Buerge buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut CJ’s deficit to one at halftime, 22-21.
Neither team was able to separate in the third quarter and the game was tied at 32.
The game-changing surge arrived for the visitors as the fourth quarter began. The Bulldogs began the fourth period on a 16-3 run to go up 48-35.
Scott, Buerge and Dezi Williams all contributed field goals before Williams added a free throw to complete a three-point play. Next, Burk hit a 3-pointer from the corner before Buerge scored three hoops in transition.
“We made a few adjustments defensively that really helped us,” Shorter said of the spurt. “We settled in defensively and did a better job of not turning our backs to shooters. That helped. We have a tendency to be over-aggressive when the ball goes into the paint. And some of our guards and forwards turn their backs to shooters and leave them open. Offensively, we had some kids, especially Destiny and Kylie, buckle down and just go get buckets. And I thought our kids did a great job of rebounding and we got some second chances.”
Carthage was plagued by empty possessions early in the fourth period.
Suddenly down double figures, the Tigers scored eight unanswered points to pull within five. Moore noted he was pleased his team didn’t quit when it got down double-digits.
“I’m so proud of our girls for always doing that,” Moore said. “They do it themselves. I’ll call a timeout and tell them to pick up the intensity and they go do it. I’m really proud of them for not quitting at the end and for making a run. We forced Carl Junction to call some timeouts. That run gave us a chance to be in the ballgame at the end.”
Carl Junction put the game away when Scott converted a putback and then made one free throw to give her squad some separation at 51-43 with 37 seconds left.
“It was a great game and we were right there with them,” Moore noted. “I think Carl Junction will finish in the top half of the conference. And after tonight, I feel like we should finish in the top half. That’s one of our goals this year.”
Both teams are at home on Friday, as Carl Junction hosts Republic and Carthage entertains Nixa.