There have been a few times this season where Macks Creek did not have the best start. Well, that did not prove to be the case at Climax Springs Monday night as the Pirates jumped out to an early lead and protected it in a 58-48 win over the Cougars.

There have been a few times this season where Macks Creek did not have the best start.

Well, that did not prove to be the case at Climax Springs Monday night as the Pirates jumped out to an early lead and protected it in a 58-48 win over the Cougars.

“We are notoriously bad starters turning the ball over a whole bunch usually in the first quarter before we get it straightened out,” Macks Creek coach Lynn Long noted. “So we talked about not starting out turning the ball over and we turned it over two or three times before we got it rolling, but we are a lot better and most teams are when you get to a lead. You play more relaxed and after we got started we hit a few baskets and got it going and that was a big difference.”

Macks Creek led by nine after the first quarter and as many as 15 in the second frame. Climax Springs never managed to chop the deficit by more than eight and there were a couple of reasons for that.

One, was Macks Creek’s ability to attack the Cougars’ zone defense by zipping passes around to create open looks.

“I’m a big believer that dribbling is not your friend so we try to stay away from that as much as we can,” Long said. “A lot of turnovers tonight were probably on dribbling when we should not have, but we were hitting people tonight, passing it quickly and finding the right spot. We’ve had games where we were not quick, but I thought we did a good job of that tonight and when you start off good you get a little confidence and get relaxed and it kind of snowballed for us.”

Macks Creek sophomore Kenzie Hicks led the Macks Creek with 18 points that included a host of 3-pointers to pace the Pirates and junior Jesse Willis added 17 points while senior Lexi Mayer put up 11 as the third Pirate in double figures.

“Getting those good looks to our good players and really shooting the ball was what helped us the most I think,” Hicks said.

“Being not so big as a team helps us a lot too. Getting those outside looks are really awesome for us.”

Long noted that the trio have been doing a good job of putting the ball through the hoop whether it is Hicks’ ability to knock down 3-pointers, Mayer’s ability to adjust to being a post player or Willis’ competitive nature that fuels the team and it is a trend he would be glad to see continue.

And when Macks Creek was not knocking down shots, the Pirates were looking to wear down Climax Springs with its full-court man-to-man press. Long said that because of a shorter bench, the Pirates played more zone in the past, but trying out man-to-man seemed to work just fine and seemed to have produced better results.

“We just stayed with man-to-man, made them handle the ball and made them play faster than they wanted to,” Long noted.

The biggest difference came in the second quarter when Macks Creek forced seven turnovers.

“Just putting a lot of pressure on the ball, especially during the press, helps a lot because it slows down their offense,” Willis remarked. “Then helping off, which is something we were not too good at, at the beginning, but we worked on a lot.”

Climax Springs was led by sophomore Autumn Wallace who put up 14 points and nine rebounds while junior Cierra Drake added 11 points and freshman Jayden Butterfield finished with nine.

For Climax Springs coach Ron Rhodes, the biggest culprit was ball handling and missing some free throws but it may turn into a trend.

"Too many turnovers and and poor free throw shooting," the coach summarized of Monday night's game. "We are gearing up for districts now and I actually like our chances in districts."

Climax Springs (14-10) was scheduled to finish up the regular season against Niangua on Tuesday and will go to battle with fifth-seeded Tuscumbia in the first round of districts on February 18 at 6 p.m., in Weaubleau.

Macks Creek (15-10, 4-3 Polk County League) was scheduled to host Halfway on Tuesday and will wrap up the regular season on Friday against Calvary Lutheran at 5:30 p.m.

“This was the toughest game we had left and our fourth time playing them,” Long pointed out. “They are a pretty good team and we got the third seed at districts and they are a fourth seed. It was a pretty close vote and it was a tough game for us... and a big win for us.”