The Rolla boys basketball team (10-1, 1-0 OC) opened Ozark Conference play on Tuesday, Jan. 9 with a trip to Hillcrest. The Bulldogs took an early lead that they were able to maintain throughout on their way to a 67-56 win.
Rolla shot the three ball extremely well on Tuesday and it started in the first quarter. Blaize Klossner and Coby Martin each hit threes in the opening quarter that didn't see a lot of points for either team. The Bulldogs scored just 10 points in the first, but held Hillcrest to seven to take the early lead.
The second quarter is where Josh Pritchett took over. Pritchett buried four threes in the second to lead Rolla with 12 points. The Bulldogs also got baskets from Martin, Nick Janke and Davie Pound, as they extended their lead to 29-20 at the half.
The threes kept falling for Rolla in the second half, as Klossner and Pritchett each knocked one down in the third. The two tied for the team lead in points for the quarter, as they each scored seven points in a 20-point quarter. Hillcrest tried to keep up with six points from Malik Steaks and four from Josh Powell, but the Bulldogs were able to head into the final quarter with a 49-37 lead.
Hillcrest made the interesting decision not to foul down the stretch against the Bulldogs, as Rolla did not attempt a single free throw in the fourth quarter and only shot one free throw all night, which was made by Pound. Pritchett kept pouring in buckets with eight points in the quarter, while Alec Buhr and Janke each added four points to close out the win. Hillcrest tried to make a comeback with eight points form Tim Washington and five points from Steaks, but they couldn't keep up with Rolla. The Bulldogs were able to come out on top in a 65-57 win.
"Hillcrest was a very challenging opponent for our first conference game," said head coach Mark Miller. "To go to their place and get a win against a very aggressive, athletic, quick team, we were very happy."
Pritchett led all scorers with 27 points in the win. Blaize Klossner added 12 points for the Bulldogs, while Janke chipped in 10 more. Rolla hit a total of eight threes in the win, five coming from Pritchett. Coach Miller likes seeing his players getting a good feel for their shot from long range.
"We're getting better and better it seems," said coach Miller. "I think we've got some good shooters on the team and it's really starting to show at this point."
Next up for Rolla is a trip to Helias on Friday, Jan. 12 before taking part in the St. James Tournament next week. The game against Helias could be a big one. The Crusaders are in Rolla's District and the winner of that game tends to find themselves as the District's top seed in recent years.
"Helias is a solid basketball team, they're always tough to beat on their home floor," said the Rolla head coach. "If we give our very best effort on the defensive end and rebounding, I think everything else will take care of itself.
"We definitely have some incentive," added Miller. "The winner of this game a lot of the time will be the top seed in our District come tournament time...we know a lot about them, they know a lot about us, Friday, we'll see what we can do against one another."