Carthage rides hot start into second half of season

The Tigers are 11-2 in their first 13 games.

CARTHAGE, Mo. – The Carthage Tigers are on a roll in the first two months of the season.

“They took some bumps in the road late in the season last year,” says Carthage head coach Nathan Morris, “It shows the maturity of this group and the work they’ve put in in the off-season, to get off to a hot start against some high-level competition at the beginning of the year.”

“It feels great, especially coming off last year, having a 7-win record,” says senior Joel Pugh, “It feels pretty good right now.”

Carthage is 11-2 in their first 13 games of the season after beating Carl Junction on Tuesday night.

It’s guard play for the Tigers that’s been key.

“It’s nice that we’ve got Joel Pugh, Justin Ray and Max Templeman,” Morris says of his perimeter leaders, “They’re not in a fall sport, so they put time in and lived in the gym in the fall. We kind of go as they go. They’re the catalysts of our team. You can tell the time they’ve put in has paid off.”

Templeman is leading the team with 15.8 points per game. Pugh is averaging 15.2 points per night, while Ray adds nearly 8 per game.

“Last year having that time as varsity players, and then coming back this year with the same three guys, it’s been pretty easy to keep that rolling,” Pugh says of the chemistry between the three guards.

Earlier this season Pugh became the program’s all-time three point king with his 136th career three.

“Basketball is my main sport. That’s what I love to do,” Pugh says, “Having that in the record book here at Carthage is pretty amazing.”

Carthage is 1-1 in the COC.

Their lone loss was to Nixa in their conference opener last week – a learning experience against one of the top-ranked teams in the state.

“We could not have started that game any worse,” Morris says of the Nixa game, “They came out and jumped on us and we were back on our heels. For our kids to battle back and have that thing to single digits in the second half with a chance to cut it down to five a couple times and to stay in the fight is huge. Our kids aren’t OK with a moral victory, but we had some good learning points to move through the rest of COC play after that.”

The Tigers are hoping their early momentum – and those lessons from the Nixa game – can lead them to an even stronger finish the rest of the way.

“I think we’ve got a really good chance to be in the top tier in the league this year,” Morris finishes, “We’re not the flashiest team. You’re not going to have a lot of highlight dunks from our group. In a sense, we kind of like it that way. We want to stay under the radar and keep playing and do what we do. Hopefully down the road it all shakes itself out.”

Carthage will be back in action on Friday night, on the road against Hillcrest.