The Rolla girls basketball team (6-7) opened the Smith-Cotton McDonald's Girls Classic against the host school on Thursday, Jan. 18. The Lady Bulldogs outlasted Smith-Cotton to open the tournament with a 68-65 win.

The Lady Bulldogs got off to a hot start shooting on Thursday night, hitting three three-pointers in the opening quarter. Ellie Rodgers knocked down a pair of those threes to lead Rolla with seven points in the quarter, while Karlee Cheesman made the other. Rebecca Janke added four points in the paint in the opening quarter. The Rolla defense wasn't as strong as their offense, however, and Smith-Cotton scored 18 points in the first, seven of which came from Haley Wisker. The Lady Tigers held onto a slim 18-16 lead after the first quarter.

Rolla turned the offense up a notch in the second, scoring 21 points as a team. Seven different Lady Bulldogs scored in the quarter, including seven points from Cheesman. Rolla was also a perfect 6-6 at the charity stripe in the quarter. The Lady Bulldogs held Smith-Cotton to 16 points in the quarter, which allowed them to carry a 37-34 lead into the half. 

Rolla kept up their scoring in the second half. Kiana Garner scored six points in the third, as the Lady Bulldogs scored another 15 points in the quarter. The Rolla defense held strong enough in the quarter, allowing 14 points to carry a 52-48 into the fourth. 

The Lady Bulldogs scored another 16 points in the fourth, but missed out on several free throw attempts that would've helped them ice the game. Rolla went 2-7 at the free throw line in the quarter, but managed to hold on for a 68-65 win. 

Rodgers led Rolla with 16 points in the win, while Cheesman was right behind her with 15. Rodgers added two rebounds and a steal and Cheesman chipped in three rebounds and two assists. Janke just missed out on a double-double with 12 points and eight boards to go along with five blocks. Loran Pritchet had a team-high three assists, while adding two points and a rebound. 

"We didn’t play very well defensively tonight, but our offense carried us tonight," said Rolla head coach Luke Floyd. "I thought the long layoff from our last game affected the way we played. I was proud that the girls were able to grind out a win when we weren’t at our best. To me, that’s the sign of a good, mature team." 

Rolla followed the game with their next pool play game against Parkview on Friday, Jan. 19. Their results in that game will determine what game they play in on Saturday, Jan. 20. Smith-Cotton lost both of their games, so they will play for sixth, while Rolla will play in either the championship or third place game.