The Rolla boys basketball team (13-8, 4-2 OC) hosted two important games over the weekend. They started off with a matchup against Camdenton for an Ozark Conference matchup on Friday, Feb. 10. They then hosted Helias on Saturday, Feb. 11. That game would be important in deciding who would be the top seed of their District. After a hotly contested first half against the Lakers, the Bulldogs took control in the second half to take down Camdenton 74-60. Rolla wasn't able to carry that success into Saturday's matchup with Helias, where they lost 62-49.
The Bulldogs and Lakers traded baskets for the entire first half. Rolla spread the basketball around extremely well in that first quarter. Nick Janke led the way with six points in the paint, but six different Bulldogs scored in the quarter. Camdenton, meanwhile, was an outpouring of points from Dyllan Decker. Decker scored 11 points for the Lakers in the first, but it was the Bulldogs who ended the quarter with a 17-15 lead.
The second quarter was a lot of the same, as Rolla and Camdenton went back and forth on the score board. Janke had another strong quarter in the second, adding another seven points. Rolla was able to lock down on Decker in the second, but the rest of the Lakers added more offense around him and Camdenton took a 32-31 lead into the half.
The game was changed in the third quarter. Camdenton seemed to be running on fumes a bit in the second half and Rolla was able to force some turnovers. The Bulldogs also went off from behind the arc. Josh Pritchett buried three baskets from long range and Brandon Cunningham hit another two to help propel Rolla into the lead for good. The Bulldogs scored a total of 24 points in the quarter and built their lead out to 11 points by the end of the quarter. Pritchett and Cunningham each scored 10 points in the quarter and Rolla stormed into the fourth with a 55-44 lead and only built their lead from there.
After a quiet third quarter, Janke was able to make a big impact for Rolla in the fourth. The Laker defense began to collapse onto Janke to shut him down inside in the third, but the great shooting from long range by Pritchett and Cunningham brought Camdenton back out to the perimeter. As a result, Janke scored another eight points in the fourth quarter to help Rolla cap off a 74-60 win.
Janke ended the game with 23 points to lead the Bulldogs and he also did an exceptional job on the boards. Unlike most contests, however, Janke also had to cover more ground on the defensive end. There were several times in the game where Janke was put on Decker because players like Pritchett were off the court, which meant Janke worked everywhere from in the paint to the three point like. It was definitely a change of pace for the junior forward.
"Usually I'll just help out and stay in the lane, but when they have more shooters then I kinda have to guard that," said Janke. "(I'm) comfortable for a little bit (when stretched out to the perimeter defensively), but after a few minutes I'm gonna need a break."
But Janke wasn't the only scoring presence for Rolla. Thanks to their big third quarters, Pritchett and Cunningham both ended up in double figures, as well. Pritchett scored 17 points for the Bulldogs, while Cunningham added another 15. Rolla also got a lot of minutes out of their bench, because several players were fighting some illnesses. The Bulldogs were without Alec Buhr and several players like Zac Burns were less than 100 percent. As a result, players like Isaac Arthur and Trey Quick got a lot more action that usual and got to play in crucial moments, including first half minutes when Rolla and Camdenton were trading the lead. Camdenton was in a similar boat, as they were without one of their top players, Hunter Glynn.
"We definitely had to spread minutes a lot more than we normally do because of the health of guys," said head coach Mark Miller. "But I thought the guys did a solid job of stepping into places that we don't normally find them."
Giving some of those smaller rotational players some important minutes on Friday could be beneficial for the Bulldogs down the road, because they'll have that experience if they're needed in Districts.
"We had some guys that had to play in crunch time tonight that haven't seen a lot of varsity time yet," said Miller. "But that is good that we got them some, because down the stretch you never know what can happen, sickness or injury or foul trouble. It seems like we were dealing with it all tonight, so it was good to get everyone a lot of quality time like that."
The Bulldogs then faced off against Helias, a potential District opponent, on Saturday. This game was very similar to the matchup with Camdenton, but Rolla changed roles in the game.
Cunningham put the Bulldogs on his back in the first quarter by sinking three baskets from long range for a nine point quarter. The rest of the offense struggled to get going and Rolla ended the quarter with 14 points. Helias spread the ball around a bit more and took a 17-14 lead into the second quarter.
The offense took a dip for both teams in the second, but they traded points for the entire quarter. Cunningham added two more threes in the quarter, as both teams scored 10 points. The equal scoring allowed Helias to maintain their lead and go into the half out in front 27-14.
The Crusaders extended their lead with a strong third quarter. Helias dropped 19 points in the third and Rolla struggled to keep up. Janke scored five points in a 14 point quarter, but Rolla couldn't get much going from the field. Five of the Bulldogs' 14 points came from the free throw line, as Helias extended their lead to 46-38 by the end of the quarter.
Like in the third, Rolla did a sizable portion of their offensive damage from the free throw line. Five of Rolla's 11 fourth quarter points came from the charity stripe. Helias also did a lot at the free throw line to seal their win, hitting eight of their 10 free throw attempts on their way to a 62-49 win.
Cunningham did the heavy lifting for Rolla with 20 points, while Pritchett added another 12 points.
The Bulldogs will return to the conference for the remainder of the regular season starting with a matchup against Kickapoo on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Against Camdenton: Janke - 23, Pritchett - 17, Cunningham - 15, Arthur - 5, Burns - 4, Klossner - 3, Martin - 3, Quick - 2
Against Helias: Cunningham - 20, Pritchett - 12, Janke - 7, Klossner - 7, Burns - 3