Head coach Steve Ray and the Carthage boys basketball team knew the level of athleticism Carl Junction would bring to Carthage High School Monday night.
The Bulldogs feature 6-foot-1 junior Travis Vogt, considered by many to be one of the area’s finest basketball players, and 5-foot-10 sophomore Matt Magee, who showed how electric he can be during football season.
But Monday night, Carthage was clearly the better team as the Tigers drubbed the Bulldogs 76-57 to move to 14-2 overall and 8-0 at home.
“They’re a very, very talented group,” Ray said. “Obviously Travis Vogt was the Big 8 player of the year last season. Matt Magee is one of the better sophomore players in the area, so we knew we were going to have our hands full on the perimeter. I thought our guys responded. The first half was very back and forth. We told the guys in practice it was going to be a fun game with a lot of good athletes on the floor, and it was. They played well.”
But not well enough to challenge the Tigers on their home court.
Early in the game, however, that Carl Junction talent gave Carthage some trouble.
The Bulldogs scored first and led most of the first quarter, but Carthage senior Sam Hilton put the Tigers ahead 18-16 on a three pointer with 10 seconds left. Still, the teams would finish the first eight minutes tied at 18 after Vogt showed a little razzle dazzle in scoring as the buzzer sounded.
Both teams swapped leads early in the second before the Tigers went on an 8-0 run to take a 27-20 lead, but Carl Junction came back and tied the game at 28 on a bucket by Magee with 1:45 left in the quarter.
Carthage freshman Jaryd Coss, senior Kyle Reed and senior Desmond Buerge combined for six-straight points to pull ahead 34-28, but Carl Junction struck on another buzzer beater, as Chase Marrs’ basket at the end of the half pulled the Bulldogs to within four.
Jordan Keller made a three pointer to cut the Carthage lead to one early in the second half, but Buerge scored four and Reed added two free throws to give the Tigers a seven-point lead. Two free throws by junior Nathan Reid and a bucket by Buerge at the 4:27 mark of the third put the Tigers up by nine, but Vogt made a free throw and Magee made two to pull the Bulldogs back to within two possessions.
Coss scored three points on an and-one opportunity, then Reid scored on a dunk and Hilton added two more points to put the Tigers up by 13, a lead they would hold at the end of the third quarter, 53-40.
Carthage received nine points in the fourth from the free throw line alone, with Coss a perfect 4-4, Reid adding two, Buerge two and senior Luke Gibson one. The lead was as high as 20 points after Coss made two free throws with 4:14 remaining, but Vogt and Magee promptly made two three pointers to keep it closer.
Gibson’s free throw with 1:04 left to play put the Tigers up by 21, but Carl Junction senior Andrew Stokes scored with 47 seconds left to keep it under 20 points.
“The second half I think we finally settled into a groove,” Ray said. “We got Desmond on the floor more consistently after he got into foul trouble the first half, and it helped.
“We got a lineup on the floor that played well together,” he said. “Luke Gibson came in and did a nice job, he was very active for us. Jaryd Coss was great tonight. He was really good on the glass, finished well for us and made free throws. We know that Nate (Reid) and Desmond and Kyle (Reed) are going to be steady for us. That lineup right there helped us separate.”
Buerge led the Tigers with 23 points, Reid added 16 and Coss scored 15. Hilton finished with nine, Reed added six, senior Zach Strubberg tallied four and Gibson had three.
Carl Junction was led by Vogt with 23 points. Magee had nine, and Marrs scored eight.
The Tigers will be back in action beginning Thursday in the Glendale tournament.