Mustangs Drop Classic Opener
Defending tournament champion and the No. 3 team in Missouri Class 4 state rankings, the St. Joseph Lafayette Irish, probably didn’t expect a competitive game in its first-round matchup at the 2015 Neosho Holiday Classic. Instead, the Irish had to rally from a four-point deficit midway through the third quarter to pull out a hard-fought 58-53 win Monday afternoon over the McDonald County Mustangs.
Defending tournament champion and currently the number three team in Missouri Class 4 state rankings, the St. Joseph Lafayette Irish, probably didn’t expect a competitive game in its first round matchup at the 2015 Neosho Holiday Classic.
Instead, the Irish had to rally from a four-point deficit midway through the third quarter to pull out a hard-fought 58-53 win Monday afternoon over the McDonald County Mustangs.
“We know they have really good, talented players and I thought our guys did a really good job of getting off and helping in the paint and recovering,” said coach Trent Barratt. “We played extremely aggressive defensively. I was just pretty pleased with our effort on offense and defense.”
Lafayette built a 14-6 lead after the first quarter, which included an early 7-0 lead that turned a 5-4 lead into a 12-4 advantage.
McDonald County opened the second quarter with five
consecutive points on a three-pointer by Dagan Stites and a pair of free throws by Max Dill. After four Irish free throws sandwiched a short jumper by McDonald County’s Daton Aubrey, Kole Keith cut the lead to 18-16 on an old-fashioned three-point play.
Aubrey then hit a threepointer and Drew Harmon added a jumper from the lane to get the Mustangs to within 22-21 with 40 seconds left in the first half. Two more free throws by the Irish stretched the lead to three points, but Harmon again cut the margin to one before Lafayette’s Diego Bernard scored at the buzzer to give the Irish a 26-23 lead at halftime.
McDonald County opened the second half with a 9-2 run, to take its first lead of the game at 32-28 midway through the quarter on a trey and layup by Dill and baskets by Keith and Aubrey. But St. Joseph closed out the quarter with an 8-1 run, including a steal and dunk by Caleb Bennett, last year’s tournament MVP.
The Irish built a ninepoint lead early in the fourth quarter before McDonald County cut the lead to four points twice in the final three minutes and then got to within 51-49 on Aubrey’s three-pointer with 1:15 left, but the Mustangs could get no closer in the final minute. Lafayette closed out the game on five free throws and a late basket by Riley McKay before Keith hit a layup at the buzzer.
“When you play one of the best defenses in the state of Missouri it is hard to have a high shooting percentage,” Barratt said. “I thought we hit some big shots when we needed to. Overall, our execution was there. We executed our game plan and were in position to win the game. When you do that, it is all you can ask. We have been preaching to the guys we are a good team and belong in the picture, whether that is ranked or not ranked. We believe we can beat good teams.”
Aubrey finished with 17 points to lead three Mustangs in double figures. Dill added 12 points and Harmon 10 while Keith had nine, Stites three and Cooper Reece two to round out the scoring.
Bennett led the Irish with 16 points while Bernard had 14.
McDonald County falls to 5-2 for the season entering its Dec. 29 game in the consolation bracket. The tournament continues Dec. 30 and Dec. 31.
McDonald County’s Max Dill goes in for a layup as St. Joseph Lafayette’s Caleb Bennett (2) looks on during the Irish’s 58-53 win Monday in the opening round of the Neosho Holiday Classic.
McDonald County’s Cooper Reece (13) and Dagan Stites (10) defend Diego Bernard of St. Joseph Lafayette in the opening game of the Neosho Holiday Classic. The Irish won the game.
McDonald County’s Kole Keith battles St. Joseph Lafayette’s Diego Bernard (left) and Gary Wilkinson (0) for a rebound in the Mustangs 58-53 loss Monday in the Neosho Holiday Classic.