You can find out a lot about a basketball team by how well it plays on the road, and so far the Carthage girls basketball team looks impressive.
The Tigers have opened the season with a 4-2 record, despite playing five of six games away from the friendly confines of the Carthage Gymnasium.
In fact, that single home game, against Aurora on Nov. 21, turned into an overtime loss for the Tigers, meaning Carthage has won four of five road games to start the year.
“I think that we’ve showed some good things and we’ve showed a lot of things we still need to work on,” Carthage head coach Jim Moore said. “We’re really close to being 6-0 right now. Losing in overtime to Aurora the first game, and we had our chances the other night against Mt. Vernon. A couple things go different and we could be 6-0.”
That game at Mt. Vernon on Thursday night turned out to be Carthage’s first road loss of the year. Vanessa Pawlak scored 16 points to lead the Tigers, and Chloe’ Shepherd added 11, but Mt. Vernon won the game 49-45.
“At the same time, we won a couple close games from Webb City and Liberal,” Moore said. “It probably balances itself out. I’m okay with where we’re at right now. I know our best ball is still ahead of us and we have lots of things to work on and we’re going to improve, there’s no doubt.”
The Tigers won the Carl Junction Classic last weekend, topping rival Webb City in the championship game. All the games away from home have helped to build team character, Moore said.
“I think the girls have handled it well and we’re looking forward to getting home Tuesday night against Carl Junction,” Moore said. “I think playing in those tough atmospheres does nothing but help you and it makes you mentally tougher. That’s where we need to be.”
Six games in, Moore likes the way his team’s defense is starting to come around, and he said the Tigers are understanding how to push the ball, which is leading to some easy scores. Carthage is also an unselfish team, he said, with players sharing the ball well.
“I think there might be times we might be a little too unselfish and not take the shot we probably should have,” Moore said. “Along with that, we’ve had a lot of girls step up. Out of the first six games we’ve had four different girls at some time or another score 20-plus points. When you’ve got girls who can put numbers on the board like that, you’re tough to scout and you’re tough to defend because you want to take somebody away and somebody else is going to step up. That’s probably the main thing that is exciting about us.”
Page 2 of 2 - That unselfish nature is due in large part to two contributing factors. It comes naturally to this particular squad, Moore said, and it’s also due to the system he’s put in place. If the Tigers are not well balanced, they won’t be successful, he said.
“If you only have one or two people contributing all the time, then people can stop that,” he said. “The girls are understanding that and they’ve bought in and they’re willing to share the success. That’s going to mean good things for us in the future.”
Carthage’s next test will come at 6 p.m. Tuesday when the Tigers finally return home to host Carl Junction.
The Bulldogs have been underachievers early on this season, but Moore thinks they’ll keep getting better.
“They’re scrappy,” he said. “They’re going to play hard. You better be ready to play because they’re going to give you their best shot. We know that we’re going to have to be ready to play.”