By Greg Perkins
Playing in the White Mountain Holiday Classic in Lakeside last week, the Joseph City Wildcats posted one win against five losses over the three-day tournament.
The Cats opened against the hosting Yellowjackets on Wednesday and came out on the wrong end of a 63-28 final outcome. Austin Bushman led the way with 11 points. Jacob Fields added 8 with seven boards. Wyatt Johnson helped out by blocking four shots.
“We hadn’t seen anything like Blue Ridge’s speed and athleticism this year. We started out well, hanging with them in the first, but they really outmatched us and pulled away as the game went on,” noted Coach Scott Corum.
Facing Benson in their second game on Wednesday the Cats played much better, but lost 65-62. Joseph City led by one after the first and was up 10 at the half. Benson stormed back in the third, taking a two-point lead. The Cats were outscored by just one in the second. Fields led the way with 20 points, nine rebounds, three steals and six assists. Daniel Hutchens added 12 points with four boards. Johnson hit for 9 and Cody Davis added 8. Bushman had 6 with four boards. Chance Rush finished with 5 and seven rebounds.
“We played really well in the first half. The third quarter continues to be a problem for us, as we seem to consistently start slow in the second half. The fourth was fought evenly, however, Cody Wilson of Benson got hot and hit some big perimeter shots, including a three-point shot with seconds left in the game to give them the win,” added the coach.
Joseph City returned on Thursday to face Round Valley and played well, but finished five points short of the Elks, 52-47.
“This was a competitive game. We had some good looks in the fourth, but had a difficult time putting the ball in the basket. We missed some crucial high percentage shots down the stretch,” continued Coach Corum.
Fields led the team with 12 points. Johnson and Hutchens added 10 each, Bushman, 7, and Rush, 6.
In their second game of the day, the Wildcats again played close in a loss, this time losing to Sedona, 68-61. Joseph City led by five after one and still by three at the half. Another low scoring third period left the Cats trailing by seven heading to the fourth, where they matched the Scorpions with a 23-point output.
“We played really hard in spite of being fatigued. Turnovers were a problem for us with 18. The third quarter again was a problem,” said the coach.
Johnson finished with 15 points, four boards and four assists. Bushman added 15 with seven rebounds. Rush had 10 with seven rebounds. Fields helped with 9 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and six steals. Hutch-ens added 8 points with six assists and Jaden Parra scored 4 with seven rebounds.
On the final day of the tournament, Joseph City picked up its first win of the three days with a 69-53 deci-sion over rival Mogollon. Joseph City led throughout the game and this time played well in the third, outscor-ing the Mustangs 22-11. Fields had a big game, scoring 37 points with 14 rebounds, three steals and four blocked shots. Johnson added 11 with five assists. Hutchens finished with 8, while Parra had 6 points and six boards. Bushman finished with 3 points and six rebounds. Davis and Jayden Turley scored 2 each.
“We played really hard. Jacob was big for us and came up just four points short of a school record,” said the coach. “We started out slow again in the third, but after a quick timeout we responded and picked it up again.”
In their final game of the tournament the Cats met up with Willcox and fell short 56-40. They trailed by just one heading to the second, but from that point on Willcox took over.
“Again, we started out tough, but fatigue really set in. Willcox just seemed to have played with more energy than us,” concluded Coach Corum.
Fields led the team in the loss with 21 points, 11 rebounds and five steals. Hutchens added 8 with five boards and four assists. Johnson added 5 with five boards and two steals. Koby Smith helped with 2 points and four rebounds.
Jacob Fields was selected to the all tournament team.
The Wildcats will play at Cibecue tonight (Jan. 11), then travel to Mogollon for an important division game on Saturday, Jan. 12.
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By Greg Perkins