By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Thayer Bobcats beat the Mountain Grove Panthers for the first time since 2014, 67-42, to claim at least a share of the SCA conference title Tuesday night. The Panthers have been the outright conference victors for the past four years with undefeated conference championships.
“We played really well and got off to a great start, and anytime you’re on the road, if you can kind of get the home crowd sitting on their hands a little bit, that’s good,” said Thayer head coach Matt Pitts. “We were able to kind of calm the crowd down a little bit, then the Panthers battled back and got right back in it, and we got in a little bit of foul trouble. With the guys off the bench the last four minutes of that second quarter, we were able to stretch that lead a little bit with some young guys on the floor…as far as team wins, everyone on the floor did something.”
“They shoot the ball so well I didn’t feel that game was ever over,” Pitts. “I have the utmost respect for Coach Hiler and his program. We had to keep coming because they weren’t going to go away, and we just happened to make more plays and it happened to be our night.”
“I thought Thayer played great,” said Mountain Grove head coach Duane Hiler. “I think you tip your hat and give them all the credit because they deserved it. They came in and played harder than we did and executed better than us, and that’s a testament to Matt and his coaching ability and their program. We didn’t shoot it well, but Thayer had a lot to do with that. They did a good job defensively out of their zone, defending our sets, and they throw a lot of great athletes on the floor.”
The Thayer win snapped a 33-game conference winning for Mountain Grove. The Bobcats were the last team to earn the SCA title when they beat the Panthers in 2014.
Jayce Haven helped the Bobcats to a hot start with his and-one, three pointer, and jumper for eight points in the opening frame. Thayer capitalized on the Panthers’ missed shots and turnovers and jumped out to a nine-point lead. But Mountain Grove controlled scoring in the final minutes, with Dawson Hiler draining a three and Dylan Massey and John Felker powering it in underneath. Thayer led by two to close the first, 15-13.
The teams tied it up at 22 with three minutes to play in the second. Dylan Spencer and Ayden Stone each scored for Thayer, then Jordan Andrews hit a three to go up by seven. Andrews hit a huge buzzer beater for three more off an outlet pass from Landry Pitts to give the Bobcats a 10-point lead at the half.
Mountain Grove outscored Thayer by 1 point in the third as Massey put up eight points against Andrews’ eight.
The Bobcats advanced their lead in the final frame with 10 points from the charity stripe plus five buckets while holding the Panthers to just four points.
The Panthers drop to 11-12 on the season and take on Houston Friday before beginning district play. The Bobcats move to 20-5 and 6-0 in the SCA. They host Willow Springs Friday, a “very solid team,” according to Coach Pitts. “We’ve still got work to do,” he said.
Scoring for the Panthers: Dylan Massey, 20; Bryce Lauderdale, 9; Gaven Vaughan, 6; John Felker, 4; Dawson Hiler, 3.
Scoring for the Bobcats: Braden Hufstedtler, 20; Jordan Andrews, 16; Jayce Haven, 9; Dylan Spencer, 8; Ayden Stone, 6.