Tigers surmount Mounties 42-26, punch ticket to Carthage Invitational finals

Friday, December 1, 2017

The No. 1 seed Nevada Tigers moved one step closer to a successful defense of their Carthage Invitational basketball title, dispatching the fourth-seeded Rogers (Ark.) Mounties, 42-26, in the semifinals Thursday night.

Nevada (3-0) has opened the season in impressive fashion, winning its first three contests by an average of 21 points a game.

The Tigers were slow out of the gate, however, as Rogers looked to control the clock with long possessions.

“Rogers’ game-plan was to slow the game down and have it be a low-possession type of game,” said Nevada head coach, Shaun Gray. “They were running up to a minute off the clock. At times, that slow pace of play led to us hurrying things on offense. We want to play a little bit faster than that, and our guys let that slow pace cause them to be a little bit impatient.”

Added Gray: “We had some turnovers and empty possessions where we didn’t even get a good shot attempt. We shot a decent percentage tonight, it was just a situation where we didn’t get nearly as many shot attempts as we typically get because of (Rogers’) slow pace.”

Nevada took its first lead late in the first quarter when a Matt Thompson offensive rebound and lay-in handed them an 11-10 advantage.

The opening frame concluded with Nevada senior guard Braeden Hinton driving the left baseline and scoring for a 13-10 Tigers lead.

Nevada All-World forward Clay Gayman began to take over the action in the second quarter. The 6-foot-6 Division I commit hit back-to-back midrange jumpers midway through the frame, capping a 10-0 Tigers run as Nevada led 23-13.

Gayman, who entered averaging 24 points, 9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, continued to dazzle. His spin-move reverse lay-in put Nevada in front 25-15 midway through the third quarter.

Nevada continued to pad their cushion, with a Hunter Mason backcourt steal and lay-in, giving the Tigers a 12-point lead late in the third quarter.

Despite cutting the lead to 10 points early in the fourth quarter, Rogers was assessed a technical foul for an illegal substitution. The Mounties infraction resulted in Gayman knocking down 1-of-2 free throws to put Nevada up 11.

“Shout out to former Nevada High School athletic director, Kevin McKinley,” said Gray. “He caught it and alerted us.”

The backbreaker came with 5:30 remaining in regulation as Gayman buried a triple from the left wing, swelling the Tigers lead to an insurmountable 14 points.

Coach Gray said he was impressed that his squad was able to grind out a win with Rogers playing at a snails pace.

“It was an ugly game, and a style-of-play that is not typical for us,” noted Gray. “But it’s a positive that we can grind out a game like this.”

Gayman finished the contest with a game-high 23 points and 4 blocks.

“Clay did a good job when he caught it in mid-range,” said Gray. “They didn’t commit to guarding him (that far out) so he took the mid-range shot. When they did come out, he attacked.”

Continued Gray: “I thought Clay did a good job of scoring at all three levels — inside, mid-range and from three. And I think as the season goes on, and Clay continues to get a feel for how people are going to guard him, he will continue to be a guy who can score in multiple ways.”

Gray said he was also pleased with his squad’s defensive effort.

“We did a good job in the second and third quarters getting after their shooters,” he said. “They hit a couple early shots, and from that point on I thought our defense was really good.”

The top-seeded Tigers are set to clash with No. 2 Joplin in the championship game, with tip off slated for 5 p.m. Saturday at Carthage High School.

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