Wright City Wildcats strong start fizzles in second half loss to North Callaway

By Jeremy Jacob, Staff Writer
Posted 2/10/24

The Wright City High School Wildcats boys basketball team lost an MSHSAA game to North Callaway on February 6, 2004.

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Wright City Wildcats strong start fizzles in second half loss to North Callaway


The Wright City boys next players on the depth chart stepped up on Feb. 6, but the North Callaway seniors did to a greater degree.

The Wildcats were behind 23-21 at halftime after leading for most of the first half but then were outscored 40-16 in the second half to lose the Eastern Missouri Conference game 63-37. Their four-game winning streak was halted from the North Callaway seniors combining for 46 points, including 30 in the second half, on Senior Night.

Head coach Kenneth Brown said Wright City (10-10, 4-3 EMO) has been dealing with roster shortages this season and had three players unavailable due to injury and sickness. Chris Kornfeld finished with five points and a team-high eight rebounds but was playing a little bit under the weather, according to Brown.

“My starting two guard, Jerry Stanford, is out for the year with a broken foot,” Brown said. “My defenders Denzel Dowdy is home sick, and Will Bohannon — another big — is down sick too. We’re battling. The score — indicate what we can be. We just got to get healthy for districts.”

The loss of Stanford gave usual bench player Jersiah Higgins some playing time, and Brown said he’s been on a “hot streak” as of late. In the Wildcats’ previous game on Friday at home, they defeated Silex 60-51 and had Higgins score a career-high 23 points.

Against North Callaway (7-16, 4-4 EMO), Higgins finished with a team-high 13 points, including 10 points in the first quarter to give Wright City a 16-11 lead after one. Higgins knocked down some spot 3-pointers but also showed an ability to drive to the rim, cutting through several defenders before finishing.

“We were pretty deep, but injuries happen,” Brown said. “He was driving to the rim effectively in the first half. In the second half, they trapped him a little bit.”

Brown said the Wright City offense didn’t execute as well as it could have in the second half but added that North Callaway responded well defensively. Post player Carle’on Jones finished with 10 points and had one of two blocks for Wright City in the first half, displaying some tough interior defense. However, Brown said North Callaway was paying more attention to him in the interior as well and the Jones picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter.

The Thunderbirds collapsed on Jones and the lane with a zone defense to either deny him the ball or deny him a high-percentage shot. Wright City took some perimeters shots to counter the defense but only made one 3-pointer in the second half.

“They did a good job of adjusting to what we were doing in the second half,” Brown said. “We just got to do a better job of moving the ball because we just got a little stagnant in the second half. We were relying on the outside shot too much, and we’ve got to be able to drive in those situations. We got to get the ball to the high post and get to the ball to low post in a high-low situation versus a 2-3 zone.”

Sam Pezold led North Callaway with 21 points and 12 rebounds, hitting all three of his 3-pointers and scoring 19 points in the second half. The Thunderbirds’ other seniors couldn’t miss either, including Paul Russell and his career-high 13 points and four 3-pointers and Isiah Craighead adding 12 points and six rebounds.

“Hats off to them because they shot the ball well,” Brown said. “Our main scorers got in foul trouble so that kind of stopped us scoring. They had guys making shots everywhere. Credit to them as they probably worked on shooting all well and were able to execute.”

Despite the loss, Wright City already has more victories than its had in four years and is in the double-digits for wins for the first time since 2020. The Wildcats have five more games left until districts, starting with a home game against Van-Far (17-5, 6-1 EMO) at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

“I know this is the season where we’ve had the most wins in four years, but I expected that,” Brown said. “This group is a fantastic group. They mesh together well. I thought there were games that we could’ve won earlier in the year to get us to 12 wins. We look forward to getting to those (future games).”

wright city, high school, basketball, north callaway, mshsaa