If the Thayer Bobcats have an Achilles' heel this year, it just might be their lack of scoring punch in the third period of games.
Of the Bobcats' nine losses on the year, most have been aided in part by the inability to take control of the game after leaving the halftime locker room.
This slow start to the second half of play definitely cost Thayer in their Feb. 10 matchup with the Mountain Grove Panthers, with the Bobcats dropping their first South Central Association game of the year, 60-49 to the Panthers.
The Panthers, 16-3 and currently ranked number five in Class 3 hoops, won the contest despite being shut out from the floor the last 5:37 of the game. Mountain Grove did, however, toss in nine points from the charity stripe late in the fourth to hold the Bobcats at bay.
The Bobcats opened the game like they meant business behind six straight points from Josh Wemlinger. Wemlinger led the Bobcats in the scoring column with 22 points, 16 coming in the first half of play.
When Brett Ward (15 points) nailed his first trey of the game at the 4:43 mark of the first period, Thayer had built a 9-2 lead.
The Panthers fought back, turning four Thayer turnovers late in the frame into nine points, enough to give Mountain Grove a 14-13 advantage after one.
Cranking up their fast break to start the second period, the Panthers kicked out six unanswered points to jump out to a 20-15 lead.
Ward stopped the Mountain Grove run-out with a jumper. That was followed by a steal from Layne Hawkins (two points) that ended with a two-handed tomahawk dunk by Wemlinger as Thayer closed within one, at 20-19.
It was all Ward and Wemlinger the rest of the period for Thayer, with Ward nailing another triple, and Wemlinger tossing in the Bobcats' last four points, including a spinner that locked the game at 26-all at the half.
The third period turned out to be poison for the Cats, with the Panthers outscoring Thayer 18-9 in the frame to tilt things in their favor.
John Tollenaar (six points) sank a pair from the free throw line to open the third for Thayer before the Panthers broke the game open.
Streaking out to a 13-2 run, Mountain Grove held a 41-30 lead with 2:20 left in the period.
Aaron Henry (five points) broke up the Panther run with a stickback, and Ward popped his third triple of the game at the end of the period, but the Bobcats were facing a 44-35 hole after three.
Thayer didn't help itself any by opening the fourth with a couple of misses from point-blank range, and a pair of turnovers, as Mountain Grove kicked in the first seven points of the period to move ahead 51-35.
The Panthers hit a dry spell from the floor as they whittled time off the clock, but they did cash in from the charity stripe as the Cats fought back.
Nine points was as close as the Bobcats could get to the Panthers in the last period, as Thayer suffered its first setback in SCA play.
In junior varsity action, Mountain Grove topped Thayer 38-29.
The JV Bobcats fell behind 3-0 to start the game before canning 10 unanswered points to grab a 10-5 lead after the first period.
The JV Panthers responded by sinking the last eight points of the second period to chip into Thayer's lead as the half ended with the JV Bobcats in front 17-15.
Anthony Martin (12 points) posted all eight of Thayer's points in the third, with the JV Cats on top 25-24 after three.
Mountain Grove took over the game in the fourth, holding Thayer to four points in the frame, outscoring them by 10 points in the frame.
The JV Panthers went on to post the win despite missing the front end of five consecutive one-and-ones late in the game.
Nick Sims tallied eight points for Thayer, while Jacob Sims, Eric Veatch, M.J. Clark and Bret Cotham added two points each. Dustin Gaines finished with one point for the JV Bobcats.
Traveling to Willow Springs Feb. 13, the Bobcats dropped their second SCA game in a row, 52-45, to the Willow Springs Bears.
Wemlinger led Thayer with 13 points.
The loss leaves the Bobcats at 3-2 in SCA play, 14-9 overall.