Missed chances late in game cost Thayer shot at Cabool Holiday title
If the Thayer Bobcats' clash with the Eminence Redwings in the semifinals of the Cabool High School/Missouri Eye Institute Holiday Tournament was set to the tune of one of Aesop's Fables, the moral to this story would be easy to understand.
Good things happen to those who don't give up.
Either that or, good things happen to those who grab timely offensive rebounds.
As it happened, the Redwings were favored with both, as eighth-seeded Eminence upset fourth-seeded Thayer 57-54 Dec. 29 at The Pit in Cabool.
The loss is just the Bobcats' second setback of the year and also marks the first time in a decade that Thayer will not be playing in the finals of the annual Holiday Tournament.
It looked like the Redwings might never get to the top of the hill in the second half, as Thayer led for the duration until Eminence grabbed the lead with 45 seconds left to play, its first lead since early in the first period.
The game was locked at 54-all with a 1:13 remaining when the Cats were whistled for an offensive foul, giving the ball to Eminence.
The Redwings worked the ball around looking for possibly the last shot of the game when Nathan Nickels was fouled by Thayer at the 45-second mark. Nickels sank one of two from the line, giving Eminence a 55-54 lead.
On their next possession, the Bobcats got a great chance at the go-ahead bucket when Jacob Sims shot a turnaround jumper from 15 feet out. The ball went all the way in and then spun all the way out with seven seconds left on the clock. Eminence grabbed the rebound and then Austin Brewer was fouled.
Brewer left the door open for Thayer by making just one of two from the free throw line, but with one swift kick, the Redwings also closed said door by snaring Brewer's second missed free throw.
With two ticks showing, Nickels once again made one of two from the line, giving the Redwings a 57-54 lead.
Matt Kojdecki took the inbounds for Thayer and heaved a 70-foot-shot that missed its mark as the final horn sounded, leaving the Redwings with a thrilling three-point victory.
The game was tied seven times in the second half, with the Redwings refusing to go away.
It did look like Thayer might pull away for good with six minutes left in the game, thanks to a single play.
The Bobcats held a 44-42 lead when Sims sliced to the rack for a hoop. Sims nailed the shot and was also fouled on the play. As the players were lining up for the free throw, Eminence was whistled for a technical foul. Sims hit his free throw and Michael Lowther (seven points) hit one of two free throws on the technical.
Sims turned this trip down the floor into one worth six points as he drilled a jumper to push Thayer in front 50-42, matching the Cats' biggest lead of the second half. Sims paced Thayer with 13 points for the night.
However, the Redwings didn't throw in the towel at that point. Just like they had in the third period when they were down by eight, the Redwings kept plugging away and finally managed to overtake Thayer when it mattered most -- at the end of the game.
The Bobcats had a bit of a slow start to the game, falling behind 7-2 midway through the first period. Then the Bobcats turned on the jets, holding Eminence scoreless the last 3:46 of the first, as Thayer closed the frame with 10 unanswered points to lead 12-7 after one.
Eric Veatch (10 points) started the run with a layup, followed by hoops from Blake Horton (11 points) and Sims.
Lance Schneider (eight points) finished things off with a trey and free throw to give Thayer a five-point cushion after one.
After the Cats had extended this advantage to 16-9 in the second, Eminence chopped into the margin with a little 5-0 run to pull within two, 16-14.
Thayer scored the last four points of the frame to hold a 20-14 lead at intermission.
Despite trailing by as many as eight points in the third, the Redwings rallied to knot matters at 40-all at the end of three before edging in front to stay in the game's last 45 seconds.
Garrett Smith finished with five points for Thayer, while Ryan Veatch added two.
The Bobcats did respond from their loss to Eminence by capturing third place in the tournament with a 47-45 win over the Norwood Pirates Dec. 30.
Schneider led the way with 10 points for Thayer, while Horton had nine. Sims and Kojdecki finished with eight points each, with Smith adding seven. Eric Veatch and Lowther tallied two points apiece, while Jacob Eckman added one point.
The Summersville Wildcats, seeded fifth in the tourney, opened play in the annual event with an 80-76 upset of Crane.
Against Thayer, the Wildcats could manage only half that total, as the Bobcats completely blew the doors off Summerville by a 76-40 count Dec. 28 in the quarterfinals.
To their credit, the Wildcats did hang around until Thayer hit the turbo boosters midway into the third period.
With Summersville down 44-35 at the 3:30 mark of the frame, the Bobcats exploded to outscore the Wildcats 26-5 during the last 12:30 of the night, turning a fairly competitive game into a 36-point rout.
Thayer outscored Summersville 45-18 over the course of the last two periods of play.
The Bobcats held a 16-10 advantage after one and took a 31-22 lead to intermission before dominating the third and fourth periods to ice the game.
Eric Veatch paced Thayer with 15 points, while Sims added 14, and Schneider 11. Smith finished with 10 points, Horton seven, Lowther six, and Kodjecki five. Jacob Eckman added two points for Thayer.
In opening-round play Dec. 27, it was all Thayer, all the time, as the Cats blitzed Lutie 75-16.
The Bobcats jumped on top 24-9 after one and turned that into a 48-12 lead at the break.
Sims fired in a game-high 21 points for Thayer, with Smith following close with 19. Schneider added 12, Veatch 10, and Kodjecki seven. Horton, Eckman and Lowther tallied two points each for the Bobcats.