"The boys are disappointed," said Verona coach Brad Stewart. "It's good to see them so hungry. I told the team the last 48 hours were kind of like an NBA schedule. We hit this big shot to win Friday, and we didn't tonight. We have to clear our mind and move on to the next game."
Cassville advanced to the championship after rolling over Springfield Catholic 55-39 in Friday night's first semi-final. The Wildcats used their interior size to overpower the Irish and dominated from start to finish.
In the championship, Cassville took advantage of its decided size advantage to pound the ball into the paint. Ricky Nichols used his speed to score 8 points, including a pair of treys, in the first quarter.
Verona wouldn't back down and failed to be intimidated, answering Cassville with clutch 3-pointers by Nick Washam, Cody Ernsberger and Wesley Kissinger to stay within striking distance.
After one quarter of play, Cassville held an 18-13 lead,
The Cassville Wildcats used a tight two-three zone defense to eliminate Verona's ability to drive to the basket in the second period while swelling their lead to 10 at 23-13 with 4:54 left in the first half.
Verona quickly ignited a 6-0 run with Kissinger and Ernsberger connecting from downtown and cutting the Cassville advantage to four at 23-19 with two minutes left.
Cassville's Garrett Kirk tip-in concluded the scoring in the first half as Cassville led 25-19 at intermission.
In the first half, Verona only hit six field goals, five of which were from three-point range. Knowing this, Stewart instructed his squad to dial up the pressure in the second half.
Verona forced three turnovers in Cassville's first six possessions, but because of Cassville's physical nature and size, Verona struggled to finish on the offensive end.
Cassville took its largest lead of the game at 35-23 with 1:40 to play in the third period. Verona rallied with five straight points to end the period down by eight. Cassville used the first three minutes of the final period to re-establish an 11-point lead at 43-32.
|Verona mounted one more charge. Ernsberger connected on two treys, which helped initiate a 13-4 run to cut the lead to two at 47-45 with 1:15 left in the game.|
A made free throw by Trey Rose with 21 seconds gave Cassville the 50-47 advantage. Verona committed a costly turnover, and Cassville sank a free throw to win.
"We learned that we can fight back and get into games," said Stewart. "We gave ourselves a chance to win at the game's conclusion two nights in a row. One night we got it done, and tonight we didn't."
Scoring for Cassville: Nichols, 22; Joel Maher, 9; Rose, 8; John Cavness and Kirk, 4 each; and Ethan Lowery and Logan Scott, 2 apiece.
Scoring for Verona: Ernsberger, 26; Kissinger, 10; Seth Losack, 6; and Washam; 5.
Ernsberger and Kissinger were named to the All-Tournament team.
The Verona Wildcats erased a five-point deficit in the game's final two and a half minutes to top Spokane 53-51 on Friday night.
Verona jumped out to a 14-11 lead in the first quarter before the Owls' Eric Bowman caught fire in the second period, connecting three consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 13-4 Spokane run.
The Owls took a 29-22 lead into the intermission.
Verona dialed up the intensity in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 34-32 on Washam's put back with 3:11 left in the third. Spokane retaliated with a Colin Ault three-point play and a Kyle Campbell layup to secure a 42-37 lead to begin the fourth period.
"I told the boys that if they wanted to win this game they were going to have to fight for it," said Stewart. "We had to own the boards and scrap for the loose balls. They responded."
Verona tied the game at 46-46 on Losack's steal and layup with 3:27 on the clock, but before anyone could bat an eye, Spokane's Bowman sunk a trey and Ault stole the inbounds pass and score to retake a five-point lead with 2:34 on the clock.
The Wildcats responded.
Kissinger kissed a short jumper off the glass on Verona's next possession. The Wildcats then forced a turnover. An attempted shot was no good but Larry Patterson, following his coach's instructions, was there to clean the glass, and he scored and drew the foul. Patterson completed the old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game 51-51.
Verona secured a stop on Spokane's next possession, and Kissinger's 12-foot jumper gave Verona a lead with one minute left.
Spokane missed three shots in the final 15 seconds before Verona grabbed the rebound and held on for the win.
Bowman led Spokane in scoring with 17 points. Hunter Bishop added 15.
Scoring for Verona: Kissinger, 17; Ernsberger, 14; Washam, 10; and Losack and Patterson, 6 each.
Verona will host Galena on Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.