The Rolla boys basketball team (2-0) got into their first action since their season opener over a week ago when they opened the Republic Tournament against Heritage on Monday, Nov. 27. The Bulldogs fought through some foul trouble in the third quarter on their way to a 63-56 win.
Rolla controlled the pace of the game early on. Josh Pritchett led the Bulldogs on the offensive end with six points in the opening quarter, providing a nice one-two punch with fellow senior forward Nick Janke, who added four points of his own. Rolla held Heritage to just three field goals in the first quarter and carried a 13-10 lead into the second.
Rolla kept pounding the paint in the second quarter, as Janke and Davie Pound each scored four points in the frame. The Bulldogs had a nice inside-out attack, as Alec Buhr also buried a three in the quarter. Blaize Klossner added four free throws and another strong defensive quarter gave Rolla a 30-21 lead at the half.
The third quarter was almost Rolla's downfall, as they got into a lot of foul trouble in the quarter. Heritage made just one shot from the field in the second, but went to the free throw line 11 times. Seth Stanley was a perfect 7-7 from the charity stripe and made the lone field goal in the third, as Heritage dug into Rolla's lead. Offensively, the Bulldogs couldn't get things going, as they were forced to mix up their lineup with foul trouble. Rolla scored just four points in the quarter, but held on to a 34-31 lead going into the final quarter.
"In the third quarter, we had fouled at one time 10 times to none and put them on the line quite often and they hit a lot of free throws. said head coach Mark Miller. "Our defense was solid, we were just getting fouls called on us and our offense, we got a little stagnant and struggled a little bit.
"We righted the ship and took a lead into the fourth and from there the offense was strong," continued coach Miller. "And we didn't foul quite as much."
The offense was completely different in the fourth, as Rolla exploded for 29 points. All five starters scored in the quarter and they were led by nine points from Buhr. Coby Martin, Pritchett and Klossner each added six points, with Martin and Klossner each hitting threes. Heritage used the long ball to stay in the game, sinking four from long range in the quarter, but they couldn't quite keep up with the Bulldogs, as Rolla was able to finish off a 63-56 win. Coach Miller was happy to get the win, but he knows his team will take some lessons away from the victory.
"I think they were pleased with the win, but I think there were things we would've liked to have done better," said coach Miller. "We would like to close out a game better than we did with that game, but whenever you beat up a good team like Heritage, you're happy with the win."
Pritchett and Buhr shared the team lead in scoring with 16 points a piece in the victory. Buhr also added 10 board, bringing his team leading total to 19 through two games. Pritchett was able to dish out seven assists to go with his strong scoring effort, as well. Buhr and Pritchett were just two of the four Rolla players to hit double figures, as Klossner and Janke each scored 10 points in the win. That balanced offensive attack makes Rolla very difficult to defend.
"You can't guard just one guy with us," said Miller. "Certainly every starter we've got and guys that we bring off the bench, they force you to guard all five guys that are out there. It's a nice luxury to have."
As of the writing of this story, Rolla's opponent in the tournament semi-final was not established, as the Bulldogs will face the winner of Ozark and Belton's matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 28. That semi-final will be played on Friday, Dec. 1.