WRIGHT CITY – It’s Bryant Lucio’s mission to help the Wright City basketball team any way he can from wherever he is on the floor.
The first couple months of the season that was the sidelines as the Wildcats’ biggest player became their loudest supporter, never hesitant to holler out some words of encouragement or fill up paper cups with water for fatigued teammates.
And after working through some academic issues that kept him on the bench, he’s now coming off of it and providing Wright City a much needed shot in the arm.
“It was kind of rough but now I’m out there helping and getting minutes so I’m not bugging,” Lucio said.
He may not be but he had North Callaway bugging big time Tuesday. The long-haired, goggle-wearing, 6-foot-4 senior transfer from Holt used his size to seal off defenders and pumped in a season-high 24 points while hauling in 11 rebounds as Wright City delivered the Thunderbirds, who were perched alone atop the Eastern Missouri Conference standings, their first league loss of the season, 62-60 in overtime.
“Good win and good team effort,” Lucio said. “We’re definitely coming together and that’s all that matters.”
It’s only the second time the Wildcats have defeated North Callaway in the past eight meetings and it’s the first time they’ve recorded consecutive victories this season after topping Silex 79-72 on the road Friday.
“Yeah, we’ve turned a bit of a corner,” Wright City first-year Head Coach Ryan Benz said. “Last week we kind of changed some things up and implemented a little different style that we wanted to play. The game plans we’ve had lately have been fantastic and we’re executing. We had a great scouting report on North Callaway. We knew what they were going to want to do and we attacked the areas we wanted to attack. We finished on the shots we needed to make and just played a heck of a ballgame against a heck of a ballteam.”
Senior David Liddell and junior Dillon Seabaugh each splashed a pair of 3s in the opening quarter as the Wildcats jumped out to a 20-4 advantage.
The ’Birds pecked away at their deficit from that point, trimming it to six points at intermission and two by the end of the third.
North Callaway junior Gabe Cash drilled a trey to open a topsy-turvy fourth quarter and senior Dawson Wright had the final bucket of regulation, a 3 that knotted things at 53 with 1:11 remaining, the fourth separate tie of the period.
After sputtering for a spell, Liddell came up clutch in crunch time for the Wildcats. He missed seven consecutive 3 attempts in the second and third quarters, but made his only two of the fourth and another to start the scoring in overtime that put the hosts ahead for good.
“That OT 3 was huge,” Benz said. “David went through that cold stretch and he was starting to become a little reluctant shooting it. I told him, ‘Hey, you got your misses out of the way. Just keep firing away because they’re going to go down.’ And they did.”
Lucio, who had back-to-back baskets in the extra period that gave Wright City enough cushion to hold on, said the team’s confidence never wavered, even when the Thunderbirds forced OT.
“You can’t be nervous in those situations because there’s so much adrenaline rushing and everyone’s out there on the same page just trying to get the win.”
After Lucio’s 24 points, Liddell finished with 17 and Seabaugh 11.
Wright had a game-high 25 points for the Thunderbirds, who had a three-game win streak snapped and dropped to 16-6 overall with a 6-1 EMO mark.
The Wildcats improved to 7-12 and 3-4 in conference. They host Clopton Friday and visit defending Class 2 state champion Van-Far on Tuesday.
“We were able to withstand a little adversity tonight, which throughout the year has kind of been our problem,” Benz said. “It was nice to see us finish a game and play a complete four and a half quarters.”