By Matt Turer — @MattTurer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Mark Schweitzer said there was only one way he could’ve left the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions Opening Round angry.
If his team quit.
That would’ve been easy against undefeated USA Today No. 2 Oak Hill Academy, especially after being hit with a 21-0 run to end the first quarter and open the second. Instead, Ozark battled for four quarters and became one of just a handful of teams to stick within 20 points of Oak Hill (25-0) in an 84-65 loss Thursday at JQH Arena.
“I’m very proud of them,” Schweitzer said. “They did exactly what I asked them to do, and any time a team does that it makes its coaches proud. We showed heart, we showed passion for the game and we showed mental toughness. They dunked us and dunked on us hard and got some ooh’s and some ah’s and we came back hard.”
Quinn Nelson led Ozark (9-4) with 25 points, broke the career 1,000-point mark and set the school’s all-time career 3-point record.
“It’s awesome for him,” Schweitzer said. “Especially after the Blue & Gold Tournament. We laid an egg there as far as our expectations, so it showed a lot of toughness to come out here against the No. 2 team in the nation and do what he did, but I really would like to see who the hell the No. 1 team in the nation is.”
Keyontae Johnson’s 29 points for Oak Hill led all scorers. Keldon Johnson finished with 19 and Will Richardson scored 10.
Ozark glimpsed a lead at 9-8 with 4:16 left in the first on a Nelson 3 after trailing 6-0 earlier in the quarter. Oak Hill’s response was a 21-0 run, but Ozark never truly let the game get away.
The Tigers trailed by 20 twice in the first half and by 21 in the third quarter but closed the gap to 13 in the fourth at 70-56 and kept the deficit in the mid-teens for most of the game.
“If we can play consistently that hard, that well with the little things, that’s phenomenal against that type of size,” Schweitzer said. “And all that is is effort, and if my kids will buy into that, we can contend in Class 5 in Missouri. We can make a run, we can win our district and we really can play with anybody.”
NELSON HITS MILESTONE EARLY
Nelson wasted no time breaking 1,000 points. Needing 15 points coming in, he scored 17 in the first half.
“Quinn stepped up,” Schweitzer said. “I think he improved his stock tonight. If some big-time D2s or small D1s don’t come calling on him, I’m going to be disappointed. He doesn’t play AAU so that’s why they don’t know about him.”
His four first-half 3s left him one short of tying Heath Carmichael’s school career record, which he did with 5:02 left in the third and broke with 3:36 left in the game. Ozark trailed 74-60 at that point.
“It’s something I’ll treasure and remember for a while,” Nelson said. “Something I’ll tell my kids. It’s awesome.”