The Rolla girls basketball team (8-10) hosted Helias for what could be a future District matchup on Monday, Jan. 29. After a foul-heavy, but close first half, Helias controlled the game after halftime on their way to a 76-53 win.
The first quarter was about as foul happy as a game could be on Monday night, as both Rolla and Helias racked up the foul calls. Helias was already up to four fouls just 38 seconds into the game and both teams hit that total by the three minute mark. The Lady Bulldog defense did a great job early on thanks to excellent pressure with their press. Unfortunately that press didn't last the entire game, as fouls led them to abandon the scheme. Helias committed their 10th foul just before the end of the first quarter, which put the Lady Bulldogs to the line with the double bonus for the entire third quarter. That 10th foul led to a pair of free throws by Becca Skyles, which gave Rolla a 20-18 lead with 16 seconds left in the opening quarter, but Helias' Erin Wyrick knocked down a three as the quarter ended to give the Lady Crusaders a 21-10 lead through the first.
Helias came out gunning in the second quarter, scoring the first five points to jump out in front 26-20. This was the first time in the game that either team led by more than three points. The fouls did slow down in the second quarter, but Helias was able to take advantage of Rolla's defense stepping away from full court pressure. Rolla's offense slowed down in the second with fewer trips to the charity stripe. After going 10-14 from the free throw line in the first, Rolla was just 2-6 in the second. They also struggled to get the ball down into the paint, as the Lady Crusaders did an excellent job of shutting down passing lanes into Rebecca Janke, Loran Pritchett and Mattie Dean in the post. The Lady Bulldogs scored just eight points in the second quarter and a last second basket by Lainy Lamb gave Helias a 35-28 lead at the half.
After halftime it was all Helias. Lauren Alexander dominated the third quarter to the tune of 13 points, singlehandedly outscoring Rolla. The Lady Bulldogs couldn't find consistent offense in the second half, as Helias extended their lead to 58-40 by the end of the first quarter. Rolla sent them to the line repeatedly in the fourth as they attempted a comeback, but Helias went 6-10 from the charity stripe in an 18-point fourth quarter on their way to a 76-53 win over the Lady Bulldogs.
While foul trouble definitely didn't help Rolla, head coach Luke Floyd isn't using it as an excuse for their performance after halftime.
"Helias was in foul trouble too and I thought they did a great job of attacking us to continue to put us in foul trouble," said coach Floyd. "Instead of attacking and being aggressive, we got pretty soft on the offensive end especially."
One of Rolla's biggest issues on the offensive end was Helias' ability to close down the passing lanes to the post. The Lady Bulldogs struggled to get the ball down to Janke and Pritchett in the post, which is typically a big part of their offensive gameplan. Rolla struggled to make the adjustment on the offensive end to find different scoring options when those two weren't open in the paint.
"They went to that 1-2-2 and we need shooters outside to expand that zone a little bit and we didn't have anyone knocking down the outside shot tonight," said the Rolla head coach. "As long as they can stand there and not have to guard the three point line, that makes us pretty easy to guard."
Despite having trouble getting the ball into the paint for a lot of the game, Pritchett led the team in scoring with 11 points. A lot of her points came on the fast break in the first quarter, then from the free throw line where she was 5-7. She also added three offensive rebounds, two blocks and an assist. Ellie Rodgers added another 10 points with two rebounds and an assist, while Kiana Garner scored nine points with four boards. Becca Skyles chipped in with eight points and two rebounds. Janke led the team in rebounds with eight to go alone with seven blocks, three points and a steal.
After a physical game with Helias on Monday, Rolla will have another physical matchup when they travel to West Plains on Thursday, Feb. 1. Coach Floyd wants to see his team respond a little bit better to the physicality on Thursday.
"We thought tonight was physical, when we go to West Plains on Thursday, that's really going to be a physical game," said coach Floyd. "That's not something we handle very well is physicality. We'll get after it tomorrow and Wednesday in practice and we'll crank it up a little bit on defense and have people foul us and push us around a little bit and just learn to play a little tougher.
"More than that, it's just a mental edge," continued the Rolla head coach. "Winning teams have that attitude where it doesn't matter what the situation is, they're going to come out and compete. We just don't always have that."