The Wildcats fell 47-43 to Marionville Tuesday night and 48-42 to Fair Play on Friday. In each game, Verona missed multiple point-blank shots that would have increased the opportunity for victory.
"It has got to be a mental issue right now," said Verona head coach Brad Stewart. "I didn't point fingers in the locker room, I just told the boys you have to hit layups and short jumpers to win. I really don't have a good explanation why we are struggling."
Verona and Marionville traded blows through the first five and a half minutes of the third quarter. The Wildcats missed three layups, four short jumpers and committed four turnovers but still managed to tie the game four times during the time period. The Comets appeared to find breathing room when a Malcom trey opened up a 34-27 lead with 2:01 left to play in the third.
Verona roared to life with a triple by Cody Ernsberger, a Seth Losack layup and two Nick Washam jumpers in the final 1:48 to lead 36-34 at the end of the third quarter.
Marionville and Verona battled back and forth in the fourth period when a Malcom 3-pointer broke a 40-40 tie and gave the Comets the lead for good. Marionville was a perfect eight for eight from the charity stripe in the final four minutes and held on for the victory.
Villar had a career night, coming off the bench to score 15 points to lead the Comets. Malcom finished with 11.
Scoring for Verona were: Ernsberger, 17; Kissinger and Washam, 11 each; and Losack and Tomas Estrada, 2 apiece.
Verona vs. Fair Play
On Friday, Verona fell 48-42 to the Fair Play Hornets in overtime in the Walnut Grove Holiday Tournament.
"We missed shots in key moments tonight," said Stewart. "It was good for us to experience a championship setting. Now we have to learn to win these close games."
The Wildcats trailed the Hornets 14-12 at the end of the first period but used stiff pressure and transition baskets to build a 27-18 lead at halftime.
The teams played to a near stalemate in the third period with the Hornets only able to shave one point off the lead to trail 33-25 heading into the final period.
Fair Play slowly ground away at the Wildcats' advantage and tied the score at 40-40 with 57 seconds left in regulation. Verona's Ernsberger nailed an 18-foot jumper with 15 ticks on the clock to give the Wildcats a two-point lead, but an ill-advised foul sent Hornets' guard Adam Teague to the charity stripe with five second remaining. The foul turned into double trouble for the Wildcats as Teague buried both shots and Kissinger went out of the game with his fifth foul.
In overtime, neither team hit a field goal, and Fair Play made six free throws to secure the win.
Lance Schaffer led the Hornets in scoring with 19 points. Austin Hensley added 13 points.
Scoring for Verona: Kissinger, 26; Ernsberger, 12; Washam, 3; and Losack, 1.
The Wildcats will be in action on Friday when they host Thomas Jefferson. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.