CERRO GORDO — For the better part of Tuesday's first-round game in the Macon County Tournament, Warrensburg-Latham was looking for offensive rhythm.
Any would do.
Finally, with the Cardinals ahead of Maroa-Forsyth by two points early in the third quarter, Jarius Ingram connected on a 3-pointer from the corner, was fouled, and knocked down his free throw to complete a four-point play to give Warrensburg a six-point lead.
The Cardinals (3-2) scored 10 of the next 12 points en route to a 61-40 win to advance to Thursday's semifinal against Central A&M.
“It gave them a little cushion, they relaxed a little bit and could play their game," Warrensburg coach Vic Binkley said. "Give Maroa a lot of credit. They came out, they were pretty heady, played hard and will get better when they get everybody back."
Joe Gustafson led the Cardinals with 17 points and five rebounds to go along with double-figure scoring from Ingram (12) and Mitchell Leathers (12, with eight coming in the third).
“Mitchell’s third quarter was really good and that’s what we need from him," Binkley said.
“To put three guys in double figures and keep teams under 40, we’re going to be all right."
But Maroa (0-3) used its strong half-court defense to give the Cardinals everything they wanted — and more.
Warrensburg scored just 23 points in the first half, shooting 31 percent, with Gustafson scoring 13 of those points.
That same defense also kept the Trojans within arm's-length for the better part of the second half.
“I thought our defense was spectacular," Maroa-Forsyth coach Blake Reynolds said. "A lot of the offense they had came off some turnovers and bad shots. Our half-court defense was really good and that’s been a strong emphasis of ours this year."
The Trojans trailed 23-20 at halftime after Aaron Agee knocked down all four of his 3-pointers in the second quarter, including a buzzer-beater to end the half.
Agee finished with a team-high 17 points, knocking down five triples.
“(Agee) was on fire," Gustafson said. "There wasn’t much we could do, but I thought we calmed him down in the second half (five points) just by containing him a little bit, but they’re a solid team."
Maroa committed 19 turnovers to eight by the Cardinals.
“We had a lot of youth on the floor and wore down a little bit," Reynolds said. "Warrensburg does a really good job of switching it up on you and puts pressure on the ball. We just kind of gave into that, in the third quarter especially.
“We have some youth and I told the guys they have to stop making sophomore mistakes, junior mistakes, if we want to beat quality teams like this."
Warrensburg big man Wyatt Nottelman finished with six points and 10 rebounds.
Central A&M 76, Cerro Gordo-Bement 26
All Austin Sloan had to do was run the court.
His teammates did the rest for him.
Central A&M (5-2) flung the ball around the court and got out in transition on the way to a first-round Macon County Tournament win.
Sloan, a junior, finished with 15 points and eight rebounds for the Raiders, with many of his points coming on pin-point passes in transition.
“I got all the young kids on my team," Sloan said. "They’re so fast. You’ve just got to get the ball up ahead to them and they’ll take it.
“Those sophomores, they’ve got it all. I’m telling you they’re going to get it."
One of those sophomores, Connor Heaton, scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to go along with 15 points from senior Tate Paradee and 11 from senior Jameson Smith.
Sophomore forwards Connor Hutchins and Griffin Andricks scored seven and eight points, respectively.
The offensive explosion was largely created by the Raiders' defensive pressure, forcing the Broncos (1-6) into 32 turnovers.
“Our first couple games of the season we didn’t play good defense and we’ve really been talking in practice that our defense has to ignite our offense, it can’t be the other way around," A&M coach Rob Smith said. "I thought tonight that was the case and we played well."
A&M led 47-11 at halftime and had most of its reserves in by early in the fourth quarter.
For first-year CGB coach Brandon Willard, seeing A&M was exactly what he hopes his young team develops into.
“They play the way that we want to play," Willard said. "Right now, they’re just flat out better than us at it.
“Our guys are learning a brand new system. They’re trying to do brand new things that they’ve never done in six years. It’s hard for them right now, but we’re plugging away and they’re getting after it in practice still."
Wes McDemith led the Broncos with seven points and added seven rebounds.
Sophomore guard Jacob Paradee got his first action of the season Tuesday for the Raiders. After being sidelined by a foot injury he suffered during the football season, Paradee played six minutes and converted a reverse layup-and-1 in the second quarter on his way to three points.