Tigers blocked from extending season by Webb City

Sunday, February 27, 2005
Nevada senior Eric Atkinson tries to score down low while Webb City's Caleb Powell defends during the Class 4, District 12 semifinal game at Carl Junction Friday. Webb City won 62-50 to advance to the district championship game, ending Nevada's season. Atkinson and fellow seniors Adam Gullett and Luke Rainey played their final game in a Nevada uniform.

By Joe Warren

Nevada Herald

The Nevada Tigers went into Friday's Class 4, District 12 semifinal game against Webb City with a specific gameplan.

Offensively Nevada wanted to attack the basket and try to get the aggressive Cardinals into foul trouble. Defensively they wanted to keep Webb City from getting any easy, uncontested shots.

In the first half neither strategy worked, as the Tigers struggled to keep the bigger, stronger Cardinals off the offensive glass resulting in many easy second and third-chance points. And since the referees let many fouls go in the first half, the Tigers were unable to get the Cardinals into the anticipated foul trouble.

The result in the end was a 62-50 Webb City victory, as the Cardinals built a 12-point halftime lead and held par the rest of the way to clinch a spot in the district championship against Seneca.

The final result was predictable considering the way Webb City was able to control the game in the first 16 minutes with a physical style of play the Tigers simply could not match.

Nevada was unable to draw foul calls in the first half despite drawing contact nearly every time they got into the lane. The contact had an ill effect on Nevada's shots, as they only hit 22 percent from the field before the break.

"It wasn't called that way (close) early in the game and we couldn't get ourselves to the free-throw line," Nevada coach John McNeley said.

Webb City also had eight offensive rebounds in the first half, compared to only one for Nevada. Considering that Webb City shot 45 percent from the field in the first two quarters, they were able to score on almost every possession.

To their credit, the Tigers did not back down and in the second half they started to get the fouls called. The Tigers even got as close as seven points in the fourth quarter, but Webb City senior Brayden Drake continually broke the Tigers' backs with long 3-pointers at crucial times.

Nevada played a 2-3 zone for most of the game, trying to keep the Cardinals from pounding the ball inside. That strategy worked, but they did not account for Drake going off like he did with five 3s.

"He's capable of doing that," McNeley said of the Webb City point guard. "With Drake it's just a matter of which one will show up. (Friday) he showed what he's capable of."

Drake had not been much of an offensive factor when Nevada and Webb City met the first two times, only scoring two points in their last meeting on Feb. 18. However Drake hit crucial 3-pointers Friday at the end of the first quarter to give Webb City a five-point lead, and on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to help the Cardinals go up by 15.

The Drake 3-pointer that probably hurt the most came when Nevada was trying to hang in the game late, trailing by 11 with under four minutes to go. Drake hit a long 3 with 3:11 left to give Webb City a 14-point cushion, all but cementing the win for the Cardinals.

"I thought we played hard and I thought we competed hard," McNeley said after the game. "This was a difficult matchup in terms of strength and athleticism.

"We're not a physically strong ballclub and that's been exposed throughout the season. It was tonight."

The Tigers did get a career-high 25 points from J.R. Mills. The problem was trying keep up with the Cardinals, who tried to run every chance they got.

In the fourth quarter Nevada knew they had to press the issue offensively, that led to the Tigers scoring 50 points in a non-overtime game for the first time since Feb. 4, when they beat Lebanon 55-48. Nevada had been 6-2 this season when they scored 50 or more points in regulation.

It also allowed Webb City to get 62 points, even though Nevada had planned to try and keep them below 50.

Not helping matters for the Tigers was missing two starting senior guards in Ben Wilson and Taylor Rainey, probably the top two defenders on the team. Both were lost for the season over the past two weeks with different injuries.

McNeley said that for his team to step up and compete well without the two upperclassman was a testament to the heart of the players.

"I don't believe you can overachieve, but you can underachieve," McNeley said. "With the adjustments we had to make in such a quick period of time, I thought we played pretty close to what our potential was."

The loss ended Nevada's season with an 11-16 record.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: