The Rolla girls basketball team (5-7, 1-1 OC) hosted Joplin for their second Ozark Conference game of the season on Monday, Jan. 8. The Lady Bulldogs dominated the game from the opening tip on their way to a 69-32 win.
Rolla got out to a solid start on Monday night, scoring the first five points of the game. Their defense started to lapse a bit after that and Joplin was able to get within one point, before Ellie Rodgers knocked down a three with 3:35 left to play in the quarter, bringing the score to 13-9. The Lady Bulldogs then went on a 9-7 run to end the quarter with a 22-16 lead. Rodgers hit two threes and scored nine points in the quarter to lead Rolla out of the gate, while Rebecca Janke added six more points in the paint.
"The first quarter I don't think we defended quite as well, they were able to knock down some shots and we made the adjustment to close out on their shooters and making them put it on the ground," said head coach Luke Floyd. "Once they did, when you have Rebecca and Loran (Pritchett) inside to protect the rim that kinda helps us out. Once we made that adjustment, I thought really we locked down defensively and then our press I thought was really good tonight."
Those adjustments really paid off, as Rolla played much better defense in the second. That strong defense allowed them to go on a 12-0 run to start the quarter. The Lady Bulldogs held Joplin to just five points in the quarter and their lead ballooned out to 18 less than two minutes into the quarter. With two minutes left to play in the half, Rolla was had doubled Joplin up 42-21 and went into halftime with a 43-21 lead. Janke was a force in the paint in the second quarter, scoring eight points to help push the Lady Bulldogs into the second half.
Rolla didn't slow down in the second half. The Lady Bulldogs went on a 20-1 run at the end of the third quarter and had another stellar defensive quarter by holding Joplin to six points. Four different Rolla players scored had multiple baskets in the quarter. Becca Skyles and Rodgers each scored five points, while Janke and Mattie Dean each added four points in a 20-point quarter. Rolla's lead was out to 30 points with a minute left in the third and extended that lead to 63-27 heading into the fourth, which put the turbo clock into effect with the start of the final frame.
The offense dropped off a bit in the fourth, as both teams looked to run out the clock on the fourth quarter. Rolla elected to have some of their younger players finish off the game, with Kate Brand and Micah Wells seeing some action off the bench. Rolla scored just six points in the fourth, but held Joplin to five to finish off a 69-32 win.
Rolla had great offensive performances across the board. Janke led the way with 18 points inside. She also blocked a staggering seven shots, while pulling down four rebounds and getting three steals. Rodgers wasn't too far behind with 16 points, while opening the door for her teammates to score with six assists. She also had one steal. Mattie Dean added eight points and three boards. Pritchett had a well rounded game with seven points, four rebounds, three steals and three assists, while Karlee Cheesman chipped in another seven points, five rebounds and an assist. The balance that Rolla has been able to find is helping the Lady Bulldogs become a team that's harder to defend.
"That's the exciting thing, we're a very balanced team, I don't think there is any one girl you can really key in on for us," said coach Floyd. "A lot of that is attributed to the fact that we're passing the ball really well right now."
Coach Floyd specifically mentioned the passing of Rodgers and Olivia Burken, who had three assists, in helping spark the Rolla offense to three straight wins.
"Olivia Burken her court vision, I keep talking about it every game, but she's just seeing the floor so well right now. She's really setting up her teammates for some shots. That's very exciting," said the Rolla head coach. "And Ellie has figured out that jump stop that makes a huge difference. Instead of a turnover, she's able to locate girls and get them a good pass.
"I'm really excited about the way we're playing and I can't wait to get back on the court and play again," added Floyd.
While coach Floyd is looking forward to getting back on the court, he and the Lady Bulldogs will have to wait a little bit. Rolla is going to be off for about a week and a half before taking part in the Sedalia Tournament, which kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 18. Coach Floyd will give his girls a few days off from practice during that stretch, but the key for him is how much they're looking forward to getting back in the gym.
"More than anything, I think the girls are excited to get back into the gym, so some time off isn't necessarily a bad thing," said coach Floyd. "We wanna keep that excitement so when we're back, instead of a job, it's fun when we start practicing again.
"The Sedalia Tournament is pretty wide open for us. We can go in there with a good week and I think we can come away with a championship," continued the Rolla head coach. "We've got a three game winning streak and if we can continue to build on that, that'd be great."