Conference wins in the Central Ozark Conference Small Division are tough to come by, especially on the road — and especially when you’re missing your leading scorer.
To accommodate its lack of offense, Reeds Spring turned up the defensive pressure in a 52-37 grind-it-out win at Springfield Catholic’s O’Reilly Family Athletic Center on Tuesday night. Catholic’s Jake Neff scored 14 points to lead all scorers. Reno Randle had 11 points for the Wolves in the win.
“We have to rely on our defense, and tonight we did that,” said Reeds Spring coach Barry Yocom, whose team used a 20-5 fourth-quarter run in the final seven minutes to put away the Fightin’ Irish. “(Catholic) missed some shots, but we played some pretty good defense.
“We’re satisfied with that effort, but we have to really work at being more consistent about it.”
Along with playing solid defense, Reeds Spring (5-7, 1-0 COC Small) made its free throws down the stretch, sinking 15 of 18 fourth-quarter free throws to help close out its first conference win.
“The conference season is kind of another season,” Yocom said. “It’s six one-game seasons for us. It’s going to be a battle … but on any given night, anything can happen.”
Catholic (5-8, 1-2 COC Small) tied the game 32-32 with 6:37 to play on a pair of free throws by point guard Jack Kerr. From there, the Irish were held to two field goals while turning the ball over six times, leading to the Wolves’ late rally.
“Same ol’, same ol’,” said Catholic coach Tony Armstrong, whose team lost its sixth straight game. “It’s become a constant theme with us. We hang around, we do some things well … then it gets close, people get up and pressure us, and we turn the ball over.
“They make positive plays and we make negative plays. We’ve got to find a way to play the last quarter the way we play the first three quarters.”
Playing without leading scorer Jarod Cole, Reeds Spring relied on the play of Randle and Cole Bradfield to help jump-start the offense. Randle made three 3-pointers and Bradfield added eight second-half points, including a pair of fourth-quarter 3’s, to give the Wolves some offensive life.
“It was good to see some other guys step up,” Yocom said. “To be a good team, you have to have multiple guys step up when they’re needed. Reno and Cole hit some big shots for us tonight.”
Cole, who has been out since the Blue and Gold Tournament, hopes to return this Friday when the Wolves host Spokane.
“We do miss Jarod,” Bradfield said, “but I thought we clicked on our offensive plays and got open shots.”
The Wolves earned assists on 12 of 14 field goals and shot 38 percent from the floor (14-for-37). Defensively, they forced 17 turnovers and had 10 steals, led by five from Joel Gertson.
“We had our hands up and played great defense,” Randle said. “We stayed strong. It was a team thing.”