(Kenny Felt/Captured Images)
Missouri State-West Plains, which had been beating its opponents by about 20 points a game, had to fight off a Greyhound rally to prevail 61-58 as Fort Scott fought back from a 10-point deficit with five minutes to go.
"We're 0-9 but we're just as good as that team," Fort Scott head coach Michael Cook said. "They're 10th in the nation but we're just as good and we've made progress and we compete hard so I'm proud of the effort. We just have to learn to close the deal."
The Greyhounds trailed by 15 points, 46-31, with 12:47 remaining. But the 'Hounds scored 14 of the next 19 and closed to within 6 points with 7:17 left in the game.
But then the 'Hounds failed to take an advantage of an opportunity to perhaps take the lead. West Plains' Quinton Pippen -- nephew of basketball hall of fame player Scottie Pippen -- was called for a technical foul.
But Robert Mason, who had an otherwise great night, missed both free throws. Then the 'Hounds turned the ball over on the possession after the technicals and then again three more times in the next minute of play.
"We're still making costly errors," Cook said. "At the eight-minute mark, it's 46-51 and we commit four straight turnovers, missed a pair of technicals. They go down, we commit a technical, they make their free throws and convert a turnover. So we went from five down to 10. And we're always going uphill.
"But we don't quit."
Pippen, who was T'd up after committing an offensive foul, stayed in the game even though he had four fouls. The move paid off as he scored the next five points for the Grizzlies on a 3-point goal and pair of technicals to put West Plains up 56-46 with exactly five minutes left.
But the 'Hounds fought back, scoring the next 6 themselves and getting within 56-52 when Teance Walton hit a jumper from the left side with 2:40 left.
Twann Oakley's 3-point goal with 1:32 to go put West Plains up 60-52. Fort Scott scored the next 6, the first on a Gary Floyd free throw. Then Mason swished a 3-pointer from the left side with 34 seconds to go.
Alex Barner drew a foul on a jumper with 21 seconds left to bring Fort Scott within 60-58 but missed the free throw that would have made it a one-point game.
Lonnie Hayes, Jr. was fouled and made the first of two free throws for the Grizzlies with 15 seconds left but a lane violation was called on the second free throw.
The lane violation was a bonus for the 'Hounds. Had Hayes missed the free throw, it would have still been a 3-point game. But the clock would have started running on the rebound. Instead, Fort Scott was able to inbound the ball and save a second or two before calling time out in the front court with 12 seconds to go.
Barner was called on to inbound the ball but West Plains had everyone covered. With no time outs left, Barner did the smart thing and bounced the ball off Marin Petric's leg to avoid the five-second violation. On the next try, Barner got the ball in to Walton. He passed to Floyd, who had to pass it out of traffic. It ended up in Walton's hands for a desperation 3-point shot that didn't hit the mark. Petric got the rebound as time expired.
"I tell you what, we have the heart of a champion," Cook said.
Mason finished the night with 17 points and 8 rebounds for the Greyhounds. Barner, in his first start of the season, added 13 points while Walton finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
Pippen and Wilkins scored 16 points each for West Plains and Demetrice Jacobs added another 11.
Fort Scott shot 37 percent from the floor, making 21 of 57 field-goal attempts, while West Plains shot 38 percent on 25 of 65 -- going just 9 for 29 in the second half.
Fort Scott outrebounded West Plains, 45-38, as Menas Stephens hauled down 10 more for the 'Hounds.
FSCC now goes on an unusually-long 13-day break before opening Jayhawk Conference-Eastern Division play at Coffeyville Dec. 1.
"It's kind of a double-edged sword," Cook says of the break. "But we've earned that break. We've played a brutal schedule. We joke that we have a tougher schedule than Boise State. We'll take a day off, come back Friday and get ready for Coffeyville."
MISSOURI STATE-WEST PLAINS: Hayes, Jr. 1-7 2-2 4, Oakley 2-4 0-0 5, Wilkins 7-10 2-3 16, Jacobs 5-13 1-5 11, Clennon 0-1 0-0 0, Mason 1-5 0-0 3, E.Simniok 0-1 0-0 0, Petric 3-5 0-2 6, Pippen 6-19 2-2 16. TOTALS: 25-65 7-14 61.
FORT SCOTT: Mason 5-10 4-6 17, Floyd 2-10 1-2 5, King 0-1 0-0 0, Stephens 1-8 2-2 4, Mills 0-4 2-4 2, Carter 2-2 2-2 6, Barner 6-12 0-3 13, Walton 5-10 1-2 11. TOTALS: 21-57 12-21 58.
Halftime: MSU-WP, 34-24.
Three-point field goals: MSU-WP 4-30 (Pippen 2-11, Oakley 1-3, Mason 1-5, Clennon 0-1, Petric 0-1, Wilkins 0-2, Jacobs 0-3, Hayes, Jr. 0-4), Fort Scott 4-14 (Mason 3-6, Barner 1-2, Walton 0-1, Stephens 0-2, Floyd 0-3).
Total fouls: MSU-WP 22, Fort Scott 16. Fouled out: Pippen. Technical fouls: Pippen, Stephens.
Rebounds: MSU-WP 38 (Pippen 11), Fort Scott 45 (Walton 16, Stephens 10). Assists: MSU-WP 12 (Hayes, Jr. 7), Fort Scott 9 (Mills 3). Turnovers: MSU-WP 20, Fort Scott 21. Steals: MSU-WP 11 (3 with 3 each), Fort Scott 5 (Floyd 2). Blocked shots: MSU-WP 6 (Wilkins 2, Jacobs 2), Fort Scott none.