By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
FRONTENAC, Kan. — The Nevada Tigers mostly handled the pressure defense of the Webb City Cardinals and controlled the pace and tempo of the game en route to a 64-52 victory Saturday in the championship game of the Kansas Army National Guard Invitational (KANGI).
Nevada (14-2 overall), ranked No. 10 in Class 4 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association, repeated as tournament champions and tournament MVP Dalton Gayman netted a game-high 29 points in the title tilt. Logan Applegate added 13 points, Lane McNeley 11, Noah Cheaney seven and Logan McNeley four. Applegate and Logan McNeley earned all-tournament honors.
Nickhai Howard and Cohl Vaden paced Webb City (6-7) with 16 and 15 points, respectively, and Terrell Kabala gave the Cardinals a third scorer in double figures with a dozen points. Howard, Vaden and Kabala each made all-tournament.
Webb City surged out to an early 7-2 lead, but Nevada used a pair of scoring runs — 7-0 and 8-2 — to enter the second quarter ahead 17-13. The Tigers did not trail the rest of the way and they extended their lead into double-digits early in the second half.
Gayman, Applegate, both McNeleys and Cheaney each played all 32 minutes and they never seemed to display any signs they were exhausted.
“For these guys to come out and slow them down the way that we were able to do and to defend our title,” Nevada head coach Shaun Gray said, “we’re just really proud of the effort these guys put forth and how hard they played.
“They’re tough. They’ve got a lot of mental toughness, a lot of grit. We can sub if we need to, but with the pace of the game, we didn’t need to. It says a lot about their endurance and their grit.”
Webb City scored a combined 174 points in their victories against host Frontenac (100-54) and Fort Scott (74-51). The Cardinals scored eight more points in the first half of their semifinal win Friday against Frontenac than they did in the entire game Saturday. Credit Nevada for that.
“These guys understand the game of basketball can be played several different ways,” Gray said. “Make your opponent play the game the way you want to play it. You have a chance, when you have talent like we do, to beat about anybody, but you have to do it for four quarters. We got beat a couple weeks ago by an East Newton team that made us play the game the way they wanted to play it. That doesn’t feel very good and I think sometimes a loss is the greatest teacher. Our guys made sure they played this game at our pace.”
Gayman — a 6-foot-6 forward who’s committed to play collegiately at the same school as Kabala, Arkansas-Fort Smith — seemed to be everywhere and to do a little bit of everything in the title game Saturday. He stepped outside and knocked down perimeter shots. He drove to the basket, drew contact, and contributed to Webb City foul trouble and he scored points either from made baskets or free throws. He cleaned the glass and blocked or altered shots.
“He played so hard on both ends of the floor,” Gray said. “The job he did contesting shots, altering shots, and rebounding the ball is just as impressive as the scoring that he had. Dalton’s so physical that unless you’re going to take a charge, there’s nobody to guard him.”
Nevada returns to action Friday night on the road against Carthage.
Foul trouble Saturday impacted Webb City’s potentially high-octane offense. Gary Clinton picked up his third personal foul with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining before halftime and then his fourth personal only 2:40 into the second half. Mekhi Garrard, who scored 20 points Friday against Frontenac, battled foul trouble and finished with two points Saturday.
“We’ve got to stay out of foul trouble,” Webb City head coach Jason Horn said. “When you have three guys with three fouls in the first half, that has a little bit to do with it. Offensively, we took a lot of shots that were off the dribble from three early and just weren’t good looks like we normally get. We live on getting in the paint and making kick-outs or finishing at the rim.”
With the Webb City football team winning a state championship, the basketball team started late. The Cardinals did not play their first game of the season until Dec. 10.
“We played well two of the three games (at Frontenac),” Horn said. “We continue to get better. We still have things we need to work on. We’re better than we were two weeks ago and we’re better than we were four weeks before that. We’re a work in progress and I think we’ll be where we need to be before district starts.”
Webb City hosts Harrisonville on Tuesday and Cassville on Friday to close out January. The Cardinals then play all eight of their games in February against COC opponents.
“You hope to have a little momentum built up,” Horn said. “We’re starting to get comfortable with the pace of the games. Like tonight, we just have to execute a little better on offense. I think we’re capable of making a run and being one of the better teams in our conference. It’s going to come down to sticking to a game plan and executing.”
Kansas Army National Guard Invitational
Championship Game at Frontenac High
Nevada 64, Webb City 52
Webb City 13 8 16 15 — 52
Nevada 17 13 19 15 — 64
WEBB CITY (6-7) — Nickhai Howard 16, Cohl Vaden 15, Terrell Kabala 12, Gary Clinton 4, Tanner Rogers 3, Mekhi Garrard 2.
NEVADA (14-2) — Dalton Gayman 29, Logan Applegate 13, Lane McNeley 11, Noah Cheaney 7, Logan McNeley 4.