By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
NEOSHO, Mo. —
A day after falling in a 68-64 shootout to Memphis Sheffield, the Webb City Cardinals struggled to score against the St. Joseph-Lafayette Fighting Irish.
Webb City scored 13 points in the first quarter but followed with only 17 the rest of the way in a 52-30 loss on Friday in the losers’ bracket of the Neosho Holiday Classic at Neosho High School.
The Cardinals’ loss preceded Sunrise Christian’s 74-49 win over Bentonville and St. Louis Christian’s 65-30 win over Sheffield in semifinal games. Sunrise Christian and St. Louis Christian will meet in the championship at 8:30 p.m. today.
Webb City (6-3) will face Carthage, a 59-52 loser to KC Ruskin on Friday, at 5:30 p.m. today at Neosho Middle School. The Cardinals will look to bounce back after struggling against the Fighting Irish defense.
“We couldn’t score,” Webb City coach Landon Cornish said. “They were really good defensively. They play really hard. They communicate. Guys were locked in.
“They flat out came out and wanted to play. They were excited to play and got after us. We didn’t respond and match their intensity and effort, and they just got after us and whipped us.”
Things started well enough for the Cardinals as they led 13-9 when Phoenix Johnson hit two free throws at the 3:24 mark of the first quarter.
Then scoring became a problem.
Webb City didn’t score again until the 5:55 mark of the second quarter when Jalen Vaden made a pull-up jumper to end an 11-0 Lafayette run.
After Johnson’s free throws, the Fighting Irish outscored the Cardinals 18-4 the rest of the first half to take a 27-17 lead into halftime.
Johnson led Webb City with 10 points. Nate Brown scored five and Kohl Slaughter had three points a day after the two combined for 41 in the loss to Sheffield.
“I thought we were fantastic defensively,” Lafayette coach Chris Neff said. “That is a really quality club with a fantastic coach and competitive kids who have done a lot for that basketball program in the last two years. I felt really good with how we defended them.”
The Fighting Irish also were finding success on the offensive end. Lafayette made nine 3-pointers, including five from 6-foot-7 senior forward Jeff Leeson, who scored a game-high 23 points.
“Jeff Leeson is a great shooter,” Neff said. “He’s a Division II basketball player that happens to be a stretch jump shooter. Anybody who coaches basketball would love a 6-7 kid to spend a little more time around the rim, but he just has a gift and talent for shooting. And he causes a lot of matchup problems.”
Lafayette, ranked second in the latest Missouri Class 4 MBCA poll, improved to 9-1 with the victory and will play KC Ruskin at 4 p.m. today at Neosho Middle School.
Webb City, a fellow Class 4 school which was just outside the top 10 rankings, is looking for improved play against Carthage.
“We’ll see how mentally tough we are and how much we want to win,” Cornish said.
KC Ruskin 59, Carthage 52
A four-point second quarter created a hole for the Carthage Tigers that they weren’t able to recover from as they lost to the Kansas City Ruskin Eagles on Friday in the losers’ bracket.
Carthage (3-8) trailed only 21-18 after the first quarter but went into halftime with a 33-22 deficit.
Ruskin boasted a balanced attack with four players — Jamari Chalmers (15), Tayron Holden (10), Tyler Daniel (11) and Tyron Daniel (10) scoring in double figures. Deonte Collins added nine.
Nathan Reid led the Tigers with 21 points. Jaryd Coss added 13.
Sunrise Christian 74, Bentonville 49
The Buffaloes cruised past the Bentonville Tigers to earn a chance at repeating as tournament champions when they face St. Louis Christian in the title game today.
Sebastian Saiz Soto led Sunrise Christian with 18 points, while Janari Joesaar scored 14.
The game was tied at 12 at the 3:06 mark of the first quarter, but Sunrise Christian (14-0) outscored Bentonville (9-3) 34-11 the rest of the first half.
Austin Heard led the Tigers with 13 points.
ST. LOUIS CHRISTIAN 65, Memphis Sheffield 30
Javier Martinez scored 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead St. Louis Christian into the tournament championship game, setting up a rematch against Sunrise Christian.
The Buffaloes beat St. Louis Christian 66-56 in the Sunrise Tournament championship in Wichita on Dec. 10.
Broderick Davis and Toderick Davis scored 10 points each for Sheffield.
In other losers’ bracket games Friday, Van Buren beat McDonald County 63-31 and West Memphis edged Morrilton 52-48.