The last home game for the Carthage boys basketball team was Monday, Jan. 16, and the Tigers won’t be home again until Jan. 31, a week from today.
In the meantime, Carthage finished second in the Glendale tournament on Saturday after beating the Glendale junior varsity and Kickapoo, but falling to host Glendale 75-54 in the title game.
Still, Carthage head coach Steve Ray likes where his team is at. The Tigers are 16-3 overall, 8-0 at home and 2-0 in Central Ozarks Conference play with a road game at McDonald County tonight.
“When you look at it as a whole, we’re really happy to be where we’re at,” Ray said. “When you look at it from an individual basis, I like the way our guys have approached games. We’ve not had that game where we didn’t come out or we didn’t have that energy. That goes a long way when you’ve got some talent. I like the mindset of our guys coming into games and that’s helped us separate in games where it’s been close and really competitive down the stretch.”
Carthage, which features three players standing 6-foot-5 and another at 6-foot-4, has grown accustomed to controlling the rebounding battle all season. That wasn’t the case at Glendale, however, as the Tigers were outrebounded against both Kickapoo and Glendale.
Ray wants to see that change against the Mustangs tonight.
“They’re a big, strong, physical team,” he said. “They rebound well. We were outrebounded against Kickapoo and Glendale. That’s been a big strength of our team. It’s something we’re concerned about. We want to make sure we dominate the glass.”
The other big key for the Tigers will be McDonald County’s Miguel Morales, who was named to the Neosho Holiday Classic all-tournament team after averaging 20.8 points per game.
“They’re going to be similar to Carl Junction and Neosho in that they’ve got a very good lead guard in Miguel Morales, who causes all sorts of problems,” Ray said. “He’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot. He’s their best scorer and also their best passer. That puts a lot of emphasis on your defense because if he’s going to score points you want him to make tough baskets away from the rim and make everybody else earn their own. Last year when we played them he gave us a lot of problems because he created a lot of shots.”
Last season the Tigers had a 10-day period after the Glendale tournament with no games, this year they’ll play twice in eight days. After taking on the Mustangs tonight, the Tigers will host Mt. Vernon next Tuesday.
Page 2 of 2 - “That’s going to be a great game,” Ray said. “Mt. Vernon went to Willard and Ozark and won. They are 15-2 and play in the Nixa tournament this weekend. That will be a very good test for us against a school that’s not a conference or district opponent.”
After Mt. Vernon, Carthage will have just five remaining regular-season games.
“The tale of our season is going to be told the last seven games,” Ray said. “We’ve got five conference games left and two district games remaining. I think we’re really excited where we’re at right now, but we understand we have to play our best basketball down the stretch. We’ll get a couple days of practice to hopefully clean some things up.”