BURLINGTON JUNCTION, Mo. — First-year coach Michael Barbosa has taught his Nodaway-Holt players a lot in their first season together, but the old adage is that ‘you can’t teach size,’ and that is what came back to bite the Trojans in the first game of the Northwest Missouri Tournament on Wednesday.
The Trojans were already one of the smaller teams in the area, but are now playing without starting forward Noah Farnan, their tallest player, after he injured his knee. Against most teams, Nodaway-Holt can still hold up, but against Rock Port’s front line of 6’4, 6’3 and 6’3, the size mismatch was glaring.
“It is very challenging,” Nodaway-Holt forward Gavin Leeper said. “Especially down low in the paint, it is hard to drive when you have that size difference.”
Rock Port used its physical advantages to earn a 66-38 victory.
“We were a little sluggish with all the days off school and snow days,” Barbosa said. “We weren’t really here mentally. We came in thinking we could compete with them because we competed with them on Friday, so we had the mentality that we could just go out there, show up and be competitive. But tonight wasn’t our night.”
Nodaway-Holt started the game off strong with a 6-2 lead after Leeper knocked down a 3-pointer.
“Once I hit that first one, it felt good, so might as well hit that second one,” Leeper said of his two 3-pointers.
The Jays responded fiercely by closing the first quarter on a 16-2 run. Rock Port center Jack Raison made the run 18-2 with the first bucket of the second quarter, and the lead was 20-8.
Rock Port junior forward Holden Farmer was a problem for the Trojans all night with his combination of size, shooting and passing. Farmer finished with 23 points and his basket put the Jays up 32-19 at halftime.
“He is a beast down there,” Barbosa said. “It is hard to contain him. I don’t know anyone who can contain him in northwest Missouri. He is a good, very strong post. We have no matchup for him.”
The third quarter turned disastrous for the Trojans as Rock Port outscored them 23-4 to take a 55-23 lead into the fourth quarter. Farmer gave the Jays their biggest lead with a basket to open the fourth quarter at 57-23.
“We had good opportunities, good looks, but the effort wasn’t there,” Barbosa said. “Our conditioning wasn’t there. We could have done better. There were a lot of things we could done better.”
In addition to Farmer’s 23 points, Trey Peshek had 15 and Aidan Burke and Jagger Freemyer each had 10.
Nodaway-Holt was led by 14 points for senior Brilyn DeVers and 10 for Leeper.
“Since the beginning of the season, I always thought that Gavin Leeper was going to be one of our best players,” Barbosa said. “We just kept feeding that confidence into him. … We know he can shoot. He just needs that confidence to be able to step in and knock it down.”
Wyatt Wakely added six points while Hunter Clement and Blake Bohannon each had three.
Nodaway-Holt will look to bounce back on Thursday when they will match up with top-seeded Northland Christian at 6 p.m.
“We need to come out here tomorrow night and put on a show for our crowd and everyone in the stands,” Barbosa said. “We need that momentum going into Saturday, hopefully the third-place game, and hopefully be successful there.”