Mus­tangs Drop Clas­sic Opener

McDonald County Press - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Peck

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.

PHOTO BY RICK PECK

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.

PHOTO BY RICK PECK

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.

PHOTO BY RICK PECK

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.

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