CARTHAGE, Mo. — In the midst of a three-game shooting slump, the Carthage boys basketball team may have found a new identity on Tuesday night.

That identity?

“Maybe we should become a pressuring, defensive-minded team,” Carthage coach Nathan Morris said. “It seemed to work for us tonight.”

Despite shooting 40% from the floor, the Tigers used stifling defense to claim a 60-39 victory over Carl Junction in their Central Ozark Conference opener at Carthage High School.

Carthage (6-6) limited the Bulldogs (3-4) to 29% shooting. And thanks to a plethora of steals and forced turnovers, the Tigers finished with a 54-39 advantage in shot attempts.

“I think defense allowed us to get back into our two prior games against Strafford and Parkview,” Morris said. “We ended up falling short in both of those games, but I told our guys that maybe this is who we are right now. On nights when we struggle to score, we can still be in every game we play if we can defend the way we did tonight.”

That notion was proven true after Carthage fell in a 7-0 hole by the latter stages of the first quarter. The Tigers held the Bulldogs to just one bucket in a five-minute span as they went on a 13-2 surge to take a four-point lead by the start of the second quarter.

Carl Junction responded with five straight points in the first 1 1/2 minutes of the second quarter to briefly take the lead at 14-13. However, the Bulldogs were held to just four points in the rest of the first half and found themselves in a 25-18 hole at the break.

Carthage’s Taris Jackson had seven points in the second period with one 3-pointer and a pair of transition dunks.

“I thought Carthage played hard, got into the lane and contested some shots,” CJ coach Kyle Williams said. “We missed a lot of open perimeter shots too. We went two different stretches where for four minutes and five minutes we held them without scoring. The problem was we couldn’t take advantage offensively.”

Carl Junction was limited to just two baskets and three free throws in the third quarter as the Tigers went on a 20-7 run.

Tyler Mueller capped the Carthage run with a triple at the buzzer.

“It was good for some guys to see a few shots far tonight, but overall, I think our guys are frustrated shooting it right now,” Morris said. “But that part will come. If they can keep buying into the defensive mindset, then things will take care of themselves.”

The Carthage lead grew to as high as 25 points in the fourth quarter.

Carlton led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points while Jackson added 12 and Joel Pugh 10.

For Carl Junction, Trenton Lehman paced the scoring with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting. Sharpshooter Isaac Hoberecht, the team’s top scorer this season, was held to two points and went 0-of-5 from the floor.

CJ GIRLS 60, CARTHAGE 22

Carl Junction’s Katie Scott poured in a game-high 24 points and eclipsed the 1,500-point mark for her career as the Bulldogs cruised to a triumph over Carthage.

Scott, who played just three quarters, reached the 1,500-point milestone on a layup with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter. The senior upped her career total to 1,502 points by the end of her night.

“It was a great experience tonight, and I’m so thankful my teammates supported me like they always do,” said Scott, a Drury signee. “I knew I was somewhere in range of 1,500 coming into tonight. But at halftime, someone told me I was seven points away from getting it. So that kind of expedited the process, I would say. It was a good incentive to put up some shots.”

Scott tallied her 24 points on 11-of-22 shooting with one triple and one free throw. Her final basket of the night — a put-back layup with about a minute left in the third — gave the Bulldogs a 48-15 lead.

“Katie scored her 1,000th point at about this time last season,” CJ coach Brad Shorter said. “So it says a lot about her and how she was able to score 500 more that quickly. She’s quite a player and you can’t really say enough about her skill and work ethic. Her teammates love playing with her, and what’s amazing is how unselfish she is. Over the last few years, she’s also been our assists leader.”

Destiny Buerge also scored in double figures with 10 points and had two makes from beyond the 3-point line.

Carthage was led in scoring by Katie Crowe and Hailey Fullerton with six points apiece.

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