Smith-Cotton boys basketball suffered a mid-season setback Thursday that tipped the scales toward a losing record.
Smith-Cotton junior Matt Thompson scored 16 points, senior Christian Finley added 15 and the Tigers lost its S-C/McDonald’s Classic opener 82-54 against the visiting Tigers.
Ozark outscored Sedalia 24-6 in the second period. Smith-Cotton (5-6) is scheduled to play again 6 p.m. Friday against Foundations College Prep.
“We didn’t handle adversity very well tonight,” said Smith-Cotton head coach Kevin Thomas. “Second half, I thought we played harder. But that second quarter really killed us.”
S-C senior Keith Hawkins ended a 9-0 run to start the second period at the free-throw line, sinking one to make the score 33-18.
Finley earned a technical foul with 34 seconds to play in the first half, and the Tigers trailed 46-23 after the tech freebies.
Kardell Sims Jr., who came off the bench, exited the game with 3:49 remaining in the third period after his second technical foul. Earning his first tech on a missed dunk in the first, Sims left the building after scoring two points. On the next S-C possession, Thompson pulled the standing to 61-30 with a long-range make.
“It’s a growing process,” Thomas said. “These guys are 16-17 years old, still learning how to handle their emotions.”
Despite Ozark scoring on its first three trips, Finley delivered a game-tying drive at the 4:50 mark in the first period. Ozark responded with five unanswered to lead 15-10.
Finley entered the game with team-highs in points per game (18), assists (37) and steals (23). Following a Dec. 11 home win against Hickman, when Finley dropped a season-best 34 points, the Tigers have lost four of the next five games.
Sims leads the team with 56 rebounds, logging about 16 points and six boards per contest. His 9-for-21 (43%) performance from beyond the arc also represents a team-best clip, as no Tiger had 10 or more 3-pointers before Thursday.
Ozark (8-5) arrived in Sedalia averaging 60 points per game, winning Dec. 20 at state-ranked Kickapoo and picking up two victories at the Blue and Gold Tournament in Springfield.
Smith-Cotton continues Friday against Webster Groves or Foundations College Prep and are scheduled to conclude the tournament Saturday. The Tigers stay at home Jan. 21 with Republic before facing the hosts of the Eldon Tournament 6 p.m. Jan. 28.
Alex Agueros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @abagueros2.
Marquette 58, Center 54 (F/OT)
Rock Bridge 82, Poplar Bluff 59
Ozark 82, Smith-Cotton 54