Carthage big men combined for 40 points and Van Buren had no answer as the Tigers opened the Neosho Holiday Classic with a 57-45 win Tuesday morning at Neosho High School.

Carthage big men combined for 40 points and Van Buren had no answer as the Tigers opened the Neosho Holiday Classic with a 57-45 win Tuesday morning at Neosho High School.

Carthage, who advances to play Monett at 8:30 p.m. tonight, quickly built a double-digit lead and maintained it. Senior Desmond Buerge scored the first 15 points for the Tigers, who had points on the scoreboard just four seconds in and led by six, 17-11, after the first quarter.

Six different Tigers scored during an 11-0 run for Carthage to open the second quarter, and Carthage kept the Pointers off the scoreboard until Deven Goodwin scored with 3:04 remaining in the first half. That gave Carthage a 17-point lead, but a pair of free throws by Goodwin and a bucket by Quinton Ray cut the Tigers’ lead to 30-17 at the break.

“We had a limited scouting report,” Carthage head coach Steve Ray said. “What we did know about them is they’re able to shoot the ball, especially when they’re able to set their feet, so we wanted to try to take them out of that rhythm. They did a pretty good job early getting some looks. I thought they were quick to the basketball, maybe a little bit quicker than we were early on, but in the second quarter I thought we buckled down and our pressure bothered them a little bit.

“When we needed stops we got stops, but there were times that we just looked a little bit disinterested, which is a bad sign so it’s something we’re going to have to get better at,” Ray said.

Carthage twice led by 16 early in the third quarter, and the lead grew to as many as 19 points after freshman Jaryd Coss scored with 2:29 left in the quarter to give the Tigers a 44-25 lead. Buerge started the fourth quarter with a head-turner of a dunk off an assist by Coss, but a three pointer by Goodwin kept the Pointers within 15. Goodwin sank two free throws and made a shot from the floor within five seconds to cut the lead to 13 points with six minutes to play, and the teams traded buckets for most of the remaining minutes as senior Kyle Reed, Buerge and Coss all made shots to keep the Pointers at bay.

“I thought we played a little bit uneven honestly,” Ray said. “Part of that may be the fact we’ve been off for 11 days. I don’t think our effort was bad, I don’t think it was that. I thought we put ourselves in some bad spots and we made some bad decisions with the basketball. You can’t do that. You’ve got to limit those self-inflicted wounds and we had several of them so hopefully it’s something we’re going to get better at as we get through the tournament.

“I give credit to Van Buren,” Ray added. “I thought they did a good job of not really letting you run what you’re comfortable running.”

Buerge led all scorers with 27 points, junior Nathan Reid added seven and Coss finished with six, as the trio of 6-foot-5 forwards controlled the game on the inside.

“We thought that was to our advantage,” Ray said. “Those guys are big, strong athletes and we emphasize to our guys all the time that they’ve got to be a part of what we do. We thought we had an advantage at the post and we wanted to get the ball in there and see if they could make some plays.”

Van Buren was led by Goodwin’s 25 points.

Carthage also received scoring from senior Sam Hilton and Reed, who each finished with four points, while senior Zach Strubberg added two points and senior Luke Gibson finished with one.

Carthage now faces Monett, who upset 10-1 Hannibal in Tuesday’s 9 a.m. game. The winner will play at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals.

“There are eight teams after today who still have a chance to win this thing,” Ray said. “We’re going to come back tomorrow and have a chance to get to that final four. It’s a tough 96 hours. That’s what’s great about this tournament. Four games in 96 hours and that’s good for you this time of year.”