It was a tale of two halves. At one point in the second quarter, it looked as if the Ozark was going to run away with the game – up 10 with 5 minutes left in the half. Senior Brett Krisik and junior Korbin Evans were able to score easily inside and outside of the paint while Webb City missed wide-open layups.
Webb City coach Landon Cornish said he challenged his team at halftime, and they listened. The Cardinals turned up the pressure and hit big shots. By the end of the third quarter, Webb City turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead.
“Basically we needed to man up and compete,” Cornish said he told his players at halftime. “It was more or less of a challenge – go find it and compete.”
Knowing that Krisik scored 16 on them in the first-half, Cornish had his players double him in the post. This move paid off, as the senior struggled to hit shots from down low. From the outside, the Tigers went cold.
Defensively, the Cardinals turned up the pressure, forcing 12 turnovers that led to fast breaks for senior point guard Phoenix Johnson, who exploded in the second-half with 19 points to end with a game-high 29.
“He just makes plays,” said Cornish. “He just creates for other guys – he’s very unselfish. … We just kind of go as he goes in transition and tonight he was huge.”
The Cardinals outscored Ozark 23-12 in the third quarter, taking a 48-44 lead going into the fourth after Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. That seemed to be all the momentum Webb City needed to head into the final quarter.
Ozark couldn’t find an answer early in the fourth quarter and the Cardinals never relented – increasing their lead to 12 with five minutes remaining in the game.
The Tigers went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to five, but Webb City didn’t let up.
It was a disappointing loss for the Ozark Tigers’ team that surprised many just 10 days ago in the Blue & Gold Tournament, making it to the championship game and losing by five to top-seeded Nixa.
Coach Steve Hunter said he’s looking for some consistency in his team.
“We’re 7-6. Usually teams that are .500 aren’t playing the No. 1 ranked team to the finals of a big tournament,” said Hunter.
Hunter said having a week off after the Blue & Gold tournament could have contributed to a lack of physical play, but he wasn’t going to use that as an excuse.
The Tigers were led by Krisik with 24 points and will host Rogersville Friday.
Johnson led the Cardinals with 29 points, followed by senior Kohl Slaughter with 13 and senior John Roderique with 12. Webb City travels to Lebanon Friday for a non-conference matchup.