Nevada Daily Mail
Carl Junction and Nevada entered the season in very different positions at the Carthage Invitational tournament and ended the tournament on almost completely opposite ends of the spectrum as the Bulldogs won the tournament while the Tigers were forced to settle for seventh place out of the eight teams that competed.
"We felt good coming out of the summer," Tigers head coach John McNeley said. "We had a solid summer, felt like we could be a very competitive basketball team. But then, you know, just didn't get off to the start we wanted to last week."
Tigers head coach John McNeley said before the tournament that Carl Junction and Joplin -- the tournament's top two seeds -- were "from a talent standpoint, a little bit better than the rest," and that showed in the end as those were the two teams that ultimately battled for the tournament championship. Nevada never got a chance to square off against Carl Junction in the tournament, but that all changed Tuesday night when the Bulldogs invaded Wynn Gymnasium in the first home contest of the year for McNeley's squad.
The Tigers' leading scorer from last year and the early portion of this year had a career night in Nevada's last game against Monett, scoring a career-best 36 points. Carl Junction didn't do much better at shutting down the senior than Monett did and Smith once again led all scorers Tuesday night with 26 points.
On the heels of that performance, the Tigers put the pressure on early and never let up, ultimately defeating the Bulldogs by a final score of 67-52.
"We were really tickled with the win," McNeley said. "We just needed to play at the level that we're capable of playing, I think, to prove to ourselves that we could."
The Tigers proved plenty to not only themselves, but fans as well, as they dominated Carl Junction throughout most of the game on both ends of the floor. Smith opened the game with two first-quarter 3-pointers and the Carl Junction defense quickly recovered and attempted to shut him down with nearly constant double-teams on the Tigers' offensive end, but that didn't stop the rest of the offense. The Tigers finished the night with a total of eight players in the scoring column in the 15-point win.
"We had a lot of other contributions and that's what we've got to have," McNeley said. "We knew Carl would double Silas and send two guys at him, so those guys had to react to that. But then, you've got to have the ability to score the basketball once you do get it out of the double team."
The Tigers had little trouble scoring, but there really wasn't any other breakout performance besides the one put on by Smith. Smith was the only Tiger to break into double figures on the night, but Jamin Brandt and Easton Mitchell weren't far from it as they each finished the night with nine, despite Brandt fouling out of the game with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left.
Travis Vogt led the offensive effort for Carl Junction as he finished the night with 21 points. Matt Magee wasn't far behind as he finished with 18.
As a team, the Tigers made 16 of 24 free throws on the night, while Carl Junction went just 13-for-22 from the stripe.
The Tigers' junior varsity squad was in action on the night as well and completed the sweep with a 59-58 victory. "That's a quality win from the JV against a good Carl Junction junior varsity team."
McNeley was a bit hesitant to say whether or not a victory over such high level competition as Carl Junction could be a turning point in his squad's season, but he was quick to point out that he hoped his squad could pick up and run with the momentum from Tuesday night's performance.
"I think it re-establishes the caliber of team that we can be," he said. "We knew what we had to do coming in."
The Tigers' strong showing on both ends of the floor Tuesday night did bring to the forefront of many fans' minds just why the Missouri Basketball Coaches' Association took notice of the Tigers before the season began. The Tigers didn't quite make the top 10 in the preseason poll, but were among the schools on the outside looking in who received votes from some of the coaches involved in the selection of the 10 best teams in the state.
The Tigers won't have to wait long to see if they can keep the momentum going as they are scheduled to be right back in action on Friday, when they travel to Warrensburg High School for a varsity/JV doubleheader that is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.