The Verona Wildcats missed their chance to stay atop the Ozark 7 Conference standings. Brad Stewart's club traveled to Washburn on Tuesday night for a showdown with the Southwest Trojans and led by a dozen points late in the second quarter before the Trojans mounted a comeback and defeated Verona 65-58.
Cody Ernsberger, Verona's senior guard, nailed five treys and scored 23 total points to lead the Wildcats.
Verona's only prior conference loss was to Thomas Jefferson last week. Southwest also had only one conference setback, falling to Purdy before the Christmas break. The Trojans handled TJ in overtime on Monday night in Joplin, setting the stage for last night's showdown.
The Trojans looked a step slow on defense throughout the first half as the Wildcats built an impressive double-digit lead. Southwest's trademark pressure defense could not stop the Verona gunners. Ernsberger hit back-to-back long balls midway through the first quarter and then rained in a couple more to open the second quarter as Verona opened a 27-15 lead.
But Southwest closed out the first half with a 7-0 run, and the Wildcats led by 35-30 at halftime.
Verona's Seth Losack converted one of two free throws to start the third period, but the Trojans answered with a 9-0 blitz to take a 39-36 lead. Southwest center Skylar Knoll scored four times in the paint as the Trojans led 43-42 at the final break.
Losack scored with a driving hoop to give Verona a 44-43 lead to open the fourth quarter, but that was the last time the Wildcats would be on top. Southwest opened a 10-point advantage when James Pettit's fast break layup created a 60-50 score. The Wildcats could get no closer than 7 points in the closing minutes as Southwest took the victory.
A slow start and shaky free throw shooting nearly sank the Trojans on this night. Southwest converted only 14 of 28 attempts from the line, while Verona made nine of 14.
Verona falls to 7-5 overall and 2-2 in the Ozark 7. Southwest improved to 11-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Verona entertains Hurley in a nonconference clash on Thursday, while Southwest travels to Wheaton on Friday.
Southwest scorers: Skylar Knoll, 20; James Pettit, 14; Tyler Ferguson, 9; Jordan Epling, 9; Travis Hayworth, 5; Jeff Elkins, 5; and Josh Cutberth, 3.
Verona scorers: Cody Ernsberger, 23; Wesley Kissinger, 17; Seth Losack, 12; Nick Washam, 45; and Tomas Estrada, 2.
|The Southwest Lady Trojans relied on 18-point performances from Nicole Ickes and Michaela Mitchell to run away from Verona 61-33 on Tuesday night at Washburn. Southwest's trapping pressure defense limited Verona's Tristan Carrasquillo to 6 points and held the Lady Wildcats to just 13 total points in the second half.|
Verona enjoyed leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before Southwest pulled away to lead 14-9 at the end of the first quarter. Mitchell scored 14 of her 18 points in the first half, and Ickes swished a long trey as the half ended to give the Lady Trojans a 33-20 lead.
Southwest's advantage reached 20 as the third quarter ended, with Ickes hitting a long jumper, and the Lady Wildcats could not get within 20 points in the final period. It was deja' vu all over again for the Lady Wildcats, who lost to Southwest in the Lady Cavalier Classic back in December, 67-28.
Verona slipped to 6-4 overall and 1-1 in the Ozark 7 race. Southwest improved to 9-4 and 3-1 in conference play. The Lady Wildcats will host Hurley on Thursday, while the Southwest girls will travel to Wheaton on Friday.
Southwest scorers: Nicole Ickes, 18; Michaela Mitchell, 18; Taylor Mettlach, 12; Shannon Mitchell, 7; Jessica Morgan, 4; and Cady Swindle, 2.
Verona scorers: Amanda Mullen, 7; Tristan Carrasquillo, 6; Taylor Pinkly, 4; Jessica Youngberg, 4; Shelby Barsotti, 4; Tesssa Bilyeu, 3; and Whitney Shue, 3.