The Thayer Bobcats wrapped up their regular season with their final home game of the year, a rescheduled South Central Association contest with the Cabool Bulldogs Feb. 18.
And although they did not have an easy time with Cabool, the Cats, ranked number one in the state in Class 2, still racked up their 25th win of the year, against only one setback, with a 44-31 victory over the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs proved to be a strong match up for Thayer, both size-wise and athletically, and Cabool controlled the opening tip.
With both teams playing strong defense, it was the offense that naturally struggled on both sides of the hardwood.
The normally quick-to-score Bobcats couldn't find many openings in the Bulldogs' defense, and also couldn't seem to find the range to the bucket, and was out of position on rebounds that careened into Cabool's eager hands.
On the other end, the Bulldogs also were having difficulty eluding the sticky defense of the Cats, coming up with short, off-the-rim shots.
The Bobcats' two leading scorers, Blake Horton and Lance Schneider, had to sit out with quick foul trouble, and in a very low-scoring first quarter, Cabool was up 10-8 after one.
Michael Lowther picked up the pace for the Bobcats in the second with a defensive steal and drive to the hoop.
Ryan Tate, Matt Kojdecki and Luke Martin gave the Bulldogs a different look offensively and the trio was also very aggressive on defense.
Lowther was able to break off of back side screens in the lane and make his way to the goal.
Garrett Smith and Jacob Eckman were able to use their muscle and good position for rebounds and dish-offs to open teammates.
Kojdecki's defense led to offense, with the Bobcats taking a slight 21-16 advantage into the halftime locker room discussions.
The sticky defense of Cabool freshman Donavan Baker may have impeded the release of Schneider's quick trigger, but it in no way hampered his ball handling.
High screens from Lowther and Smith got Schneider open in the lane, and dishes from Eckman to Horton turned into points, and a 34-24 Bobcat lead at the end of three.
In the final quarter of hoop action, the Bobcats turned it up a notch. Eckman and Smith took care of Cabool's big man in the middle, while the rest of the Bobcats took care of things out front.
But when the final buzzer sounded, the Bobcats had finished off the season at 25-1, tri-champions in the SCA at 6-1, with a 44-31 win over Cabool.
Lowther led the Cats with 16 points for the night, while Schneider picked it up in the second half and ended with nine. Horton had eight and Smith six for Thayer.