The Mustang basketball team played well in spurts in their first game back from the holiday break, but the effort fell short in a 66-65 loss to Putnam County, Mo., in non-conference play. The game was played in Unionville, Mo., on Jan. 3.

The Mustangs overcame a slow start in this game, led throughout much of the contest, but didn’t finish in a game that could have secured the team its second victory of the season. Coach Jamie Cason says that inconsistent play is what eventually led to the loss.

Mustang forwards Noah Zmolek and Dalton Reeves carried the team in this non-conference battle. Reeves led all scorers with 24 points. Zmolek finished with 19.

Davis County went to Reeves and Zmolek inside as much as they could against a Putnam County defense that didn’t really have a defensive way to shut down either of them.

Davis County’s slow start dug them a hole they struggled to get out of during the early stages of the opening quarter. Putnam County’s lead was sparked by Kelton Bain who drained four straight three-pointers to start the game.

The Mustangs shifted their defense to shut down Bain who hit just one more field goal the rest of the night.

Davis County also benefited from Bain’s early exit in both halves. The hot-shooting guard picked up three first-half fouls, which forced Putnam County to bring in players off the bench.

Once the Mustangs settled in to their half-court game and worked to control the flow of the game, things seemed to be going Davis County’s way. A 10-0 run by the Mustangs at the start of the second quarter also gave Davis County a 17-15 lead.

Three-point shots from Alex Lynch helped the Mustangs spread out of the Putnam County defense midway through the first half. They also propelled Davis County to a 26-22 lead at the break.

Despite all efforts by Davis County to pull away, they couldn’t shut down the Putnam County attack. Even though Bain’s shooting went silent, Putnam County’s bench play went a long way toward keeping them in the game.

Zmolek and Reeves also began to take over the game in the third quarter. The Mustang duo attacked the lane hard and went after higher percentage shots. Both players also stepped up their aggressiveness securing some much needed offensive rebounds that led to points.

Zmolek boosted Davis County to a 48-35 lead with 2:21 left in the third quarter. He did that by scoring on a play in the paint and then converting the traditional three-point play with a free throw shortly after.

Putnam County kept producing scoring runs against the Mustangs, but each time it happened, Davis County seemed to find a way to stretch its lead out once more. After going up by 13, Davis County struggled early in the fourth quarter to stop the Putnam County offense. Several of those points were brought on by increased defensive pressure and some uncharacteristic turnovers by the Mustangs. That led to points and the Mustangs' lead was trimmed to 54-48 with 5:47 left to play.

Putnam County continued to step up its aggressiveness and its defensive pressure. They also worked to pick up the pace of the game, which caused Davis County some problems. In the next three minutes, Putnam County erased that 54-48 deficit and took a 56-54 lead.

The lead bounced back and forth in the final three minutes. Putnam County sealed the victory with a 5-0 run with about a minute left to play. That put them up 64-60 and the Mustangs were struggling to score.

Reeves brought Davis County to within a 64-63 deficit with 27 seconds left. Putnam County scored shortly after that, but the Mustangs couldn’t find an opening in the Putnam County defense to get a chance for a three-point shot in the closing seconds to tie the game. Reeves scored on a lay-up at the buzzer allowing Davis County to suffer just a 66-65 loss.

“We played very well at times and then looked very undisciplined during stretches of the game,” said Cason. “Zmolek and Reeves played excellent for us as I couldn’t be more pleased with their play. Once Putnam started pressing, we played faster which led to some turnovers. Our turnovers are down from last year, but that needs to continue to improve. This team keeps getting better and brighter days are ahead.

Score by quarters

DC    10    24    52    65

PC    15    20    41    66

Scoring—Reeves, 24; Zmolek, 19; Zeitler, 8; Alex Lynch, 5; Ivan Garcia, 4; Caedyn Glosser, 3; and Carson Maeder, 2.

Rebounds—Zmolek, 9; Reeves, 5; Garcia, 3; Riley Heller, 2; Zeitler, 1 and Lynch, 1.

Assists—Zeitler, 5; Garcia, 2; Reeves, 1 and Glosser, 1.

Steals—Garcia, 1 and Reeves, 1.