The Neosho County Panthers closed out the regular season with an 81-63 victory over the Labette Cardinals on Wednesday.
The Panthers led nearly wire-to-wire thanks to hot shooting from the field all night. The home team finished the game with a 51 percent shooting efficiency, knocking down 11-of-18 shots from deep.
“Sometimes you just hit shots,” Neosho County head coach Taylor Shaffer said with a chuckle. “It was kinda the opposite of what we had last week, so it was good to see our guys shoot the ball with confidence.”
The Neosho County defense was also on point early on, setting up a brick wall around the pair of Labette forwards inside.
“Our game plan was to pack the paint against those guys,” Shaffer said. “It was a little disappointing to see a couple guys get loose, but almost half their makes were 3s. We’ll live with that.”
Labette County head coach Jason Hinson was wholly frustrated with his team’s effort heading into the postseason, especially on the defensive end.
“I thought we had the maturity to come in and play better heading into the playoffs, but we were rattled,” he said. “We just weren’t rotating to shooters, and they’re a very good shooting team when they get hot. It’s a tough environment, so when you let them get that kind of confidence it’s gonna be a long night for you.”
A rowdy group of Neosho County baseball players provided cheers and jeers all night, and some Cardinals let every word affect them. The volume of the Panther faithful nearly drowned out the official’s whistle on two separate plays in the second half alone.
“This is one of the toughest places to play in the league, no matter their record,” Hinson said. “When you mix that with a lack of effort on our side, it leads to a bad loss.”
The Panthers led 39-28 at the half, and held a double-digit lead for most of the second half en route to the 18-point victory.
Labette lost forwards Eric Dillinger and Julius Lymon to fouls in the half, allowing Neosho County to pour on layup after layup to extend their lead.
“We don’t have a lot of size at it is, so losing those two guys was definitely a big factor,” Hinson said. “From there they started pounding it in, and we just had no rim protection without them in.”
Another major factor in Wednesday’s win was Neosho County Peter Obeng’s domination under the bucket. The freshman forward grabbed 13 rebounds and swatted four shots to go with seven points in the matchup.
“I thought Peter was really good tonight, both on the boards and defensively,” Shaffer said. “I also thought Michael (Odingo) had a really good game. He shot it well, finished well and shared the ball.”
Neosho County sophomore Michael Odingo finished with a game-high 20 points and six assists. Sophomores Ezrah Vaigafa and Alexander Norris netted 15 each, sophomore Shaun Holmes finished with 11 and freshman Tane Kirisome had 10.
Labette was led by an 18-point performance by sophomore Kamryn Edwards. Sophomore Brandon Taylor Chipped in 14 points, while the Cardinals got seven each from sophomore Kawasiki Ricks and freshman Christian Yeates.
Both squads now await the release of the Kansas Jayhawk Conference tournament bracket, as postseason action is set to start on Monday.
“We just gotta lock in what we’re doing. We gotta follow the game plan and give effort,” Hinson said. “If we get a full game, we’re tough to beat.”
Labette: 28 35 — 63
Neosho County: 39 42 — 81
Labette: Kamryn Edwards 18, Brandon Taylor 14, Kawasiki Ricks 7, Christian Yeates 7, Eric Dillinger 5, Christian Williams 5, Landon Austin 5, Brock Wesley 2
Neosho County: Michael Odingo 20, Ezrah Vaigafa 15, Alexander Norris 15, Shaun Holmes 11, Tane Kirisome 10, Peter Obeng 7, Jaaron Hariott 3
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