By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
With three conference games left to play, the Mansfield Lions remain undefeated in the Summit Conference after their 64-45 victory Tuesday night over the Seymour Tigers.
It was the third meeting of the teams this year, each ending with a Mansfield win.
“It was a bit of pressure,” said Mansfield head coach Terry Writer. “A good team you’ve played three times, it seems to get a little harder each time. It was a pretty aggressive game, a lot of action, a lot of mistakes, but a good team performance for us. We had a size advantage and they had a bit of a quickness advantage, and our kids responded pretty well. I was proud of our guys.”
Dylan Caruso, a 6’9” senior center, picked up his 1,500th career point for Mansfield.
“He is a four year starter and has played 108 games, so when you play that many games you score some points,” said Coach Writer. “He’s a good player. He gets a lot of attention, he gets double teamed, and everybody makes it rough on him, but that’s okay.”
Seymour head coach Chris Hastings said the Tigers’ game plan worked, at least in part.
“We had them in the 40’s going into the mid fourth quarter, and that’s kind of how we wanted the game, but we just couldn’t keep scoring with them,” he said. “We talked before the game that we needed our role players to step up and knock down shots, and we didn’t do that. I felt like the kids played hard and did what they were asked, they just didn’t finish shots. A lot of that had to do with how good Mansfield is; they forced us into tough shots and they’re a good ball club.”
The teams burned two minutes off the clock in the first before Eric Helms broke the scoring drought with two successful free throws. Hunter Gray put Mansfield on the board with a three, and Trint Sampson answered with his own shot from downtown for Seymour. The Lions then put on a shooting clinic with Hunter Gray connecting on two more from deep, followed by Jay’lan Williams and Kevron Baker adding their own three-pointers to the tally to move up 20-7 after one quarter of play.
Seymour outscored Mansfield in the second thanks to Eric Helms’ nine points and another Trint Sampson three. The Tigers limited Caruso to two buckets while Payton Watterson and Hesston Gray had 5 and 2 points, respectively. Seymour trailed by 10 at the half, 31-21.
In the third, Seymour executed the three ball well, with Sampson, Brian Pearce, and Levi Ipock each connecting. The Lions picked up four points at the charity stripe, but the Tigers outscored them by one to trail by 9.
“Hesston Gray hit some free throws late that kind of gave us a bit of a cushion,” said Writer. “His brother also hit some big shots late.”
Hesston added six points and Hunter, five, in the final frame. Writer also credited the quick play and solid pressure from guards Jay’lan Williams and Kevron Baker.
Two Tigers fouled out in the final minutes while Mansfield gained six more at the free throw line. Brady Brooke put up five points of his own for Seymour in the fourth, but the early deficit was too much to overcome.
“We know Caruso is one of the best players in the state and I feel like we did a good job on him, we wanted to push the ball any chance we got, but when we had open looks we didn’t take advantage of them,” said Hastings. “Eric Helms was our constant. He’s averaging 22 points per game. We just didn’t have everybody else step up around him.”
The Lions are now 4-0 in the Summit Conference and take on Gainesville Friday, followed by Norwood and Fordland at home next week. Their season stands at 21-2.
Seymour falls to 2-2 in the conference, 14-8 on the season, and will face Fordland Friday in a conference rivalry showdown.
Scoring for Mansfield: Hunter Gray, 16; Dylan Caruso, 14; Hesston Gray, 12; Payton Watterson, 9; Jay’lan Williams, 7; and Kevron Baker, 6.
Scoring for Seymour: Eric Helms, 18; Trint Sampson, 9; Brady Brooke, 7; Justin Herion, 3; Levi Ipock, 3; Brian Pearce, 3; Carson Sturdefant, 2.