The Rolla girls basketball team (0-2) hosted Sullivan on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The Lady Bulldogs struggled out of the gate, but made a late push to take their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, they couldn't maintain their small lead and Sullivan pulled out a 59-55 win over Rolla.
Sullivan came out of the gate scoring the first five points of the game, which caused Rolla to call an early timeout. The Lady Bulldogs settled down after the timeout, but still ended the first quarter trailing 18-14.
The second quarter saw a lot of defense from both teams. Rolla was able to cut into the Sullivan lead by making all eight of their free throw attempts in the quarter. Ellie Rodgers knocked down four of those attempts, as well as sinking Rolla's only three of the half. Rebecca Janke also went 4-4 from the charity stripe in the quarter. The Lady Bulldogs were also able to hold Sullivan to just eight points in the quarter, but the Lady Eagles were able to cling to a 26-25 lead at the half.
Sullivan got out to another quick start in the third quarter, stretching their lead out to as many as 10 points in the quarter. While that could've easy buried the Lady Bulldogs, Rolla fought back. Kiana Garner and Loran Pritchett, who had to leave the game at the end of the first half with a bloody nose, each scored six points in the quarter to jumpstart the offense. Rolla was able to get within one point as the quarter neared its end, but Sullivan buried their third three-pointer of the quarter at the buzzer to go into the fourth with a 46-42 lead.
Rolla refused to let that last second dagger get them down, as the Lady Bulldogs just kept fighting. Rolla scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, taking the lead on a jumper by Karlee Cheesman. The lead was then traded back and forth for the next several minutes. The Lady Bulldogs managed to take the lead back again on a jumper by Pritchett, bringing the score to 53-52 with 3:17 left in the game. After a Sullivan three gave the Lady Eagles the lead, Pritchett sank another shot to tie the game at 55. Sullivan went on to score on their next possession to take the lead for good. Rolla got a bit more frantic as they ran out of time to tie the game again and the Lady Eagles were able to finish off a 59-55 win.
Despite the loss, Rolla head coach Luke Floyd was proud of the fight his team showed.
"I can't say enough about them, I'm just so proud of what they're doing," said coach Floyd about his team. "They're working so hard and they don't quit. So many times in the past, we would get down and that would just be it, but these girls dig their heels and they just keep battling. That's exciting.
"I told them they can be a little bit mad that we lost the game, but they had to be very very proud of where their effort is and where we're headed," continued the Rolla head coach. "We're right there."
That effort and desire to keep grinding was evident in the performance of Pritchett, who led the team with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half, despite getting smacked in the nose just before the half and bleeding through nose plugs throughout the entire halftime period. The sophomore also added two rebounds and an assist. Coach Floyd said her performance was the leadership hehe wants to see out of his team.
"That's the kind of leadership we've been looking for," said Floyd. "Somebody who's willing to step up and show that toughness and really step up and lead.
Another standout was Garner. This season is her first real taste of varsity action and she proved why she's in the starting lineup on Tuesday night with 10 points in a 4-6 shooting performance, while grabbing five rebounds, a steal, a block and an assist.
"Kianna Garner I thought played phenomenal tonight," said coach Floyd. "She works so hard on the defensive end and that's usually her calling card, but tonight she played on the offensive end with confidence and she was a huge spark for us."
Rodgers had another strong game at the point with 11 points, three assists, two steals and two rebounds. Cheesman, her fellow point guard added seven points, four rebounds and two steals. While both point guards made an impact on the defensive end and in the point column, the most important thing was their low turnover count. The two guards combined for just seven turnovers and the Lady Bulldogs only had 15 turnovers on the night. Coach Floyd saw a lot of improvement in how his team is taking care of the ball.
"Ellie and Karlee, our backcourt, only had seven turnovers between them and two of those came on the first two possessions of the game," said coach Floyd. "Our turnovers didn't go in sequences of three or four or five possessions in a row, we've limited them to one or two possessions."
Rebecca Janke has a solid night in the post with nine points and seven rebounds, but Sullivan made it tough on her all night long. Janke was regularly surrounded by two or ever three Lady Eagles and took advantage by going 5-6 at the free throw line. She also made a lot of good decisions to not go up with shots and find her open teammates.
"To her credit, when she didn't have a shot, she had several assists finding Loran underneath or kicking it out for other people that are wide open," said coach Floyd of his sophomore forward. "I thought she did a good job of not forcing the issue when she finally did get the ball."
Rolla will have about a week off for Thanksgiving before playing their next game against Jefferson City on Monday, Nov. 27. Coach Floyd thinks his team is close, they just need to get that first win to get the ball rolling.
"What we've talked about most is that if you play hard, things are going to happen and I think the girls are seeing that. That effort will result in wins eventually, just come every day, compete and battle and we're gonna get that first win," said coach Floyd. "We're making so many strides, we just need that one win I think to open up the flood gates."