The Joplin boys basketball team used a strong defensive performance to build an early lead and carried the momentum throughout the remainder of the contest on the way to a 65-50 Central Ozark Conference win over Branson on Friday inside Kaminsky Gymnasium.

“I was pleased at the beginning to get off to a good start,” Joplin coach Jeff Hafer said. “It seemed like everytime we got it to a place where we could put it away, we gave up some easy ones and got a little complacent. … We were able to weather some of the sets they ran, but I thought we did a good job on the kids who make things happen for them.”

Joplin (10-4, 2-0 COC) scored the first six points of the game and built the lead to 15-5 with less than two minutes left to play in the first quarter. Riding the strong play of Isaiah Davis, who scored 16 of his team-high 22 in the first half, the Eagles held pace in the second period and took a 33-21 advantage into the break.

“Isn’t he something,” Hafer said of Davis’ effort. “There is a reason he is successful in everything he does. … He is a competitor. … He is just kind of a nightmare to guard for most people because he is so strong and is great at handling the basketball. He has gotten so much better with his back to the basket … and tonight, I don’t think they had anyone who matched up well with him inside or out.”

Davis’ ability to attack the basket in the first half opened up the perimeter in the second half. Always Wright knocked down two of his team-high three 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 19 points.

“Isaiah and Always in a two-man game is really hard to deal with,” Hafer said. “We ran a couple of plays tonight that they decided to help off of Always and he got two looks that he knocked down.”

Dakarai Allen pushed Joplin’s lead to a game-high 19 points after a steal and a fast-break score early in the fourth to make the score 52-33.

Wright put an exclamation point on the win when he rose up for a dunk on the break with 1:11 left to extend Joplin’s lead to 63-47.

“It felt great,” Wright said with a laugh. “I feel like Zach Westmoreland and Dakarai Allen now.”

Zach Westmoreland finished with 10 points to give the Eagles three players in double-figure scoring.

“Zach played really hard tonight,” Hafer said. “He did a good job of guarding a guy who makes a lot of things go for them.”

D’Shawn Craig, Aden Arnette and Ethan Jones led Branson (4-10) in scoring with 10 points each.

Joplin hosts Parkview for a 7:30 p.m. matchup on Tuesday.

Williams leads Pirates past Joplin girls

Branson standout senior guard Priscilla Williams was a problem for the Joplin Eagles girls basketball team on Friday.

Williams, a 6-foot-3 Syracuse commit, led the Pirates with 42 points, 20 coming in the first half, and was the catalyst in Branson’s 62-37 win over Joplin (2-12, 0-2 COC).

“Priscilla is a very good player, there is no doubt about it,” Joplin coach Jeff Williams said. “That is the best girls basketball player that I have seen since being here in Joplin. We turned it over too many times, and that really contributed to the margin of loss for us. … We will keep working to try to find the right people in the right situations and keep competing as best we can.”

Branson (8-6) took control early with a quick 6-0 run before building the lead to 10 points early in the second quarter on a Tabby Williams fast-break score with 5:32 on the clock to make the score 17-7. After a 3-ball from Joplin’s Brooke Nice and an answer by Priscilla Williams, a 3-pointer from the wing by Avery Gage cut the lead to seven. Priscilla Williams took over to close the first half, scoring the final eight points to give the Pirates a 30-15 lead at the intermission.

Priscilla Williams didn’t let up to open the second half, scoring 13 of the Pirates’ first 15 points and earning the assist on a Sidney Davis score as part of a 15-3 run to make the score 45-18.

Joplin cut the lead to 19, 52-33, on a 3-pointer by Brynn Driver with 4:25 left in regulation, but that would be the closest the Eagles would get to the lead before the final horn.

Joplin was led in scoring by Nice, who finished with 12 points, while Driver ended the game with nine points. Madeleine Farber added six in the loss.

“Brooke is our best shooter, and if we can get her into a position with some open looks, it really helps out offense,” Williams said. “I was very pleased with her play, and I thought this was one of her better ball games for us.”

“For a freshman, Brynn is playing really well. She makes some mistakes, but it is always when she is playing hard. She keeps playing hard no matter what the score is or who she is playing against. We need that to rub off on all of our players.”

Joplin travels to Lebanon for a 7:30 matchup on Thursday.

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