Early December basketball isn’t supposed to be this good.
But on Saturday evening at Carthage High School, fans in attendance sure got a treat as the Tigers won a wild one and moved to 3-0 with a 57-56 win against Joplin in the championship game of the 65th Annual Carthage Invitational boys basketball tournament.
“It definitely was high intensity,” Carthage head coach Steve Ray said afterward. “We left a lot of plays out on the floor, and I’m sure Joplin did too, but the intensity level felt like a game in March.”
This win was the toughest of the early season so far for Carthage.
The Tigers trailed by 10 points at halftime, but opened the third quarter with a 14-2 run to take a 34-32 lead.
Still, Joplin kept battling and led 52-48 with just 4:30 left in the game.
That’s when 6-foot-5 freshman Jaryd Coss stepped up big for the Tigers, pulling Carthage within two with a bucket at the four minute mark, then giving the Tigers the lead with two trips to the foul line and sinking all four shots.
But Joplin had a young weapon of its own in sophomore Charlie Brown, who tried to give the Eagles an early Christmas special.
Brown tied the game at 54 on a pair of free throws after Carthage junior Nathan Reid, another 6-foot-5 Tiger, fouled out of the game with 11 points.
The teams then exchanged turnovers before Coss grabbed an offensive rebound off a miss by Kyle Reed and scored with 1:04 left.
With just 40 seconds left in the game, Brown rose to the occasion again for the Eagles, scoring on a driving floater to tie things up at 56. Then, with 8.5 seconds left and the Tigers holding for the last shot, 6-foot-5 senior Desmond Buerge was fouled driving into the paint and earned two shots at the free throw line.
He missed the first, but nailed the second, leaving the door open for Joplin.
After a timeout, the Eagles inbounded the ball to Brown, who drove to the basket and put up a shot as the buzzer sounded that bounced off the rim and barely missed.
Coss finished the game with 10 points, but scored all but two in the fourth quarter as he was responsible for eight of 12 Carthage points in the final eight minutes.
“It was huge,” Ray said. “He’s such a presence. He’s a 15-year-old kid, but physically he’s such a presence in the post. To step up like he did and make those free throws was impressive, to say the least, but that didn’t surprise us. Jaryd has not acted like a 15-year-old freshman. He’s one of our hardest workers and a confident kid. He’s definitely earned the respect of those older guys when they see how much he can help our team.”
Page 2 of 2 - As for Brown, he finished with 27 points to lead Joplin and cap off an excellent tournament performance where he scored 21, 31 and 27 points in three games.
“He’s special. We knew obviously he was a talent,” Ray said. “We just wanted to make him earn his points and I was proud of our guys because he only took four free throws. We wanted to keep him from taking free throws and scoring in transition. He’s going to score his points, you just want to make them have to be contested points to score them.”
Carthage led 6-0 to start the game before Joplin tied the score at 13 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
Carthage led 19-18 with 5:44 before halftime, but the Eagles went on a 12-2 run to finish off the half, with Brown scoring eight in the second quarter.
Carthage, without Buerge for most of the first half due to foul trouble, opened the second half with Buerge on the floor and promptly scored seven-unanswered points and went on a 14-2 run, with Buerge scoring 13 in the quarter after finishing the first half with just two.
“The big thing was we were able to get our guys back on the floor without foul trouble,” Ray said. “Getting Desmond and Nathan Reid back on the floor for us was huge. We told our guys at halftime, just take a deep breath. We looked like we were just out of sorts on the offensive end of the floor and defensively because of our foul trouble we had to play a little more zone than we wanted to, and a lot of that is a credit to Joplin.
“In the third quarter we were able to get back on schedule defensively and guys were shooting really well,” he said.
Buerge led the Tigers with 19 points, and Reid added 11. Coss finished with 10, Reed added nine, senior Zach Strubberg scored four and senior Dawson Allmoslecher finished with two.
Brown’s 27 led all Joplin scorers, and junior Cord Franks added 11.
The Tigers and Eagles will play each other again on Tuesday. This time Carthage will be the road team.
“I think it’s good for our guys because we know it’s going to be a quality opponent,” Ray said.