By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It was a battle of the defensive juggernauts Friday night in Thayer, as Mountain Grove came to town to claim control over the SCA with a 42-32 win.
“That’s two teams that flat get after it,” said Mountain Grove head coach Duane Hiler. “If you like defensive basketball, you would’ve had a ball here tonight. That was 10 kids who left their guts out on the floor.”
The teams had previously proven their defensive prowess, entering the contest with losses to only one team each on the season; Thayer had dropped three, all to Eminence, and Licking handed Mountain Grove its lone loss.
After one quarter, the Panthers led 11-6 as the teams struggled to execute against one another. They advanced their lead to just 15-12 at the half. Ayden Stone held 7 of the Bobcats’ first half points, and Cade Coffman led his team in the first half with 6.
“We did a better job in the second half of attacking instead of lying back and settling for three-pointers that didn’t fall,” said Coach Hiler. “Matt (Pitts) does an incredible job with his program. They play so hard, and I thought they outhustled us in the first half. They got all the 50/50s and anything that was tipped, and I thought we kind of answered in the second half a little better.”
Conner McNew opened the second half with a successful outside jumper, and Thayer answered with a Kobe Meyer bucket underneath. McNew then connected from downtown to pick up the fifth of his eleven points in the second half. Jalen Andrews helped narrow the lead to two in the third, but Mountain Grove controlled the rest of the quarter, closing it with an eight-point lead, 27-19.
Thayer crept back within four thanks to Dagen Jones’ three-pointer in the fourth and Kobe Meyer’s shots from the charity stripe, but Mountain Grove won the game by converting at the free throw line in the final frame (74%). The Bobcats wouldn’t score again until the final seconds of the fourth, as Jalen Andrews connected from behind the arc.
The Panthers now hold a one game lead in the SCA with two to play in the conference. They have been reigning champions and have remained undefeated in the conference for the past three years. “It’s a goal, but it’s not over yet,” said Coach Hiler of his team’s chance to continue the tradition. “There’s still two more games.”
Thayer will round out conference play and the regular season next week against Willow Springs and Houston, and Mountain Grove will also face Houston as well as Ava.
Scoring for Mtn. Grove: Cade Coffman, 13, Connor McNew, 13, Dylan Massey, 8, Dawson Hiler, 5, Carter Otwell, 3.
Scoring for Thayer: Jalen Andrews, 9, Dagen Jones, 9, Ayden Stone, 8, Kobe Meyer, 6.