By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Mountain Grove Panthers rallied to knock off the Mansfield Lions 70-65 in the final of the Seymour Bank Winter Classic Basketball Tournament Saturday night in Seymour.
The Panthers, who trailed by as many as 13 points during the final, rode the hot hand of 6’6″ senior forward Dylan Massey and his 32 points en route to the victory.
“Mansfield has a great team and we had a lot of respect for them entering tonight’s game,” said Massey. “But we just kept battling all night. We played, by far, our best game of the year and I’m so very proud of our team.”
The victory gave Mountain Grove its fifth consecutive championship in the Seymour tournament.
Both teams traded baskets throughout the ballgame. Mansfield jumped out to a 22-13 first quarter lead but a Mountain Grove second period surge, in which they outscored the Lions 22-10, put the Panthers up at the half 35-32.
Mountain Grove pushed their lead up to 52-47 through three periods of play and then held on for the 70-65 win after both clubs dropped in 18 points in the fourth and final period of play.
Massey led all scorers with 32 points. Also scoring for Mountain Grove were Dawson Hiler (19), Bryce Lauderdale (7), Gaven Vaughn (6) and John Felker (6).
For Mansfield the scorers included: Heston Gray (17), Hunter Gray (16), Peyton Watterson (14), Dylan Caruso (10) and Jay’lan Williams (8).
Mountain Grove head coach Duane Hiler was especially happy to see his kids pick up a win in the Seymour final Saturday night.
“We’ve struggled a lot this year but our kids have kind of turned the corner since the beginning of the New Year,” said Hiler. “We’re 5-7 now.”
Despite being behind early Saturday night Hiler said he never doubted his kids.
“I didn’t have to say much at half time,” said Hiler. “There’s no quit in these kids, that’s the way they’re wired, they’ve been that way for the past five years. So I knew we’d get a great effort from them in the second half, and we did.”
As for Mansfield, head coach Terry Writer said that they just lost to a team that played better than they did Saturday night.
“Basically we just made a few mistakes tonight and got beat by a team that just played better than us,” said Writer. “But Mountain Grove got a great game from Massey, inside and out, on his way to a 32-point night. Dawson Hiler also played well at the point guard spot. He handles the ball really well. Together the two of them made things really hard on us. But our kids played hard too. I know they’ll bounce back and I’m proud of them all.”
The loss dropped Mansfield, the Class 2 third ranked team in the state, to 14-2.
Tanner Thouvenant – Lighthouse Christian
Brady Rogers – Bradleyville
Ethan Lander – School of the Ozarks
Eric Helms – Seymour
Grady Todd – Plato
Dawson Hiler – Mountain Grove
Dylan Massey – Mountain Grove
Bryce Lauderdale – Mountain Grove
Payton Watterson – Mansfield
Dylan Caruso – Mansfield