CAINSVILLE, Mo. — Last season, Nodaway-Holt hosted East Harrison and suffered a 34-point loss in the fourth game of the season.
On Monday, the Trojans (2-2) went to Cainsville and earned a 44-39 victory over an East Harrison team (0-1) that returned its top two players from last season's game. For Nodaway-Holt, the win represents just how far the program has come in the past year.
“It just shows everybody that we are here to play,” Nodaway-Holt senior Brilyn DeVers said. “Coming off a 1-22 season last year, we are back to 2-2 and beat a team that basically had the exact same roster and we come and beat them on their home court. That says a lot about our attitude, our drive to win, our tenacity and the way we come out to play.”
Two years ago, Nodaway-Holt was winless. Last year, the team finished 1-22. This season, the Trojans have started the season 2-2 and are beginning to see their hard work play off.
“This year, everyone is super excited,” first-year coach Michael Barbosa said. “We are a part of this. We can make a statement and make this Nodaway-Holt team a great team. … We just want to set a standard so for everyone else that goes to Nodaway-Holt can live up to that and follow in the footsteps that we create right now.”
The Trojans played the first three games of the season without two starters and several key bench pieces. While the additions to the starting lineup, Hunter Clement and Gavin Leeper, only accounted for six points, they were huge defensively — particularly Leeper, who drew the assignment of East Harrison star Adam Rinehart.
Rinehart shot 8-for-11 from 3-point range last year against the Trojans. Barbosa and Leeper were set on that not happening again as Leeper was assigned to stick with Rinehart full-court, wherever he wandered.
“I knew, coming into the game, that he was someone we were going to have to watch,” Barbosa said. “When he hit a couple shots, I knew we had to switch things up. Gavin is athletic. He is a big, strong kid. He was able to keep him in front. … We wouldn't have won that game without Gavin.”
The strategy worked as Rinehart was held to just three 3-pointers on a low shooting percentage and 17 points.
“Just locking him down, just staring at his belly button — every single move, I was on top of him,” Leeper said. “He is quick, he has got the moves, but if I just watch his waist, I can stay right in front of him every time and lock him down.”
With the score tied early in the second quarter, a 3-pointer by Blake Bohannon jumpstarted a 9-0 run that also included four Noah Farnan points and James Herr basket to give the Trojans a 24-15 lead.
The Trojans 26-21 halftime lead was quickly cut to three and they struggled to find any third-quarter offense. Rinehart cut the margin to 28-27 with less than a minute left in the quarter, but DeVers showed why you always take the shot at the buzzer.
DeVers grabbed a rebound on an East Harrison miss, whirled and launched a length-of-the-court shot as the buzzer sounded. The ball swished through the net on the other end of the gym to give the team a 4-point lead after three quarters.
“We were coming off our worst quarter of the game, nothing was falling and then that heave gave our whole team the most hype that we've had all season,” DeVers said. “We carried that momentum through the fourth quarter and took the dub home.”
East Harrison retook the lead early in the fourth quarter, and the teams went back and forth for the next five minutes of game time. A Rinehart 3-pointer put East Harrison up 39-38, but Farnan answered with a bucket on the other end with just under two minutes to go, and the Nodaway-Holt defense shut East Harrison out the rest of the way.
With 1:21 left, the Trojans took a timeout with the ball and a 1-point lead. Barbosa could have told his team to sit on the ball and bleed the clock, instead they swung it to DeVers who drove baseline with 43 seconds left and laid the ball in for a 3-point lead.
“We haven't really practiced that situation, usually when I was at Maryville we practiced that situation, but we didn't have time yet — especially with getting all these new guys back,” Barbosa said. “They were executing plays and making great decisions. It was just really a great learning experience.”
After Rinehart missed a 3-pointer, Bohannon went quick again and scored with 22 seconds left to seal the victory after another Rinehart miss on the other end.
“Hard work pays off,” Leeper said. “We've got the new coach, Barbosa, and he is really pushing us.”
DeVers led the Trojans with 15 points while Farnan added 12. Bohannon finished with seven, Leeper had six, and Wyatt Wakely and Herr each had two.
The Trojans will look to get above .500 on Friday when they play their first home game of the year against Worth County.
“With this new team, I feel that we can hang right with them on Friday night,” DeVers said.