The Rolla boys basketball team (18-1, 4-0) hosted West Plains for an Ozark Conference matchup on Friday, Feb, 2. After letting their lead slip away just before the half, Rolla got out to a great start in the third quarter on their way to a 67-51 win.
The Bulldogs got out to a strong start on Friday night, kicking things off against West Plains on an 8-3 run. The Rolla defense played a big role early, as their press repeatedly forced turnovers to jumpstart the offense. Coby Martin and Josh Pritchett both had great quarters, as Martin knocked down a pair of threes for eight points in the first, while Pritchett hit a three of his own in a five-point quarter. The duo scored 13 of Rolla's 14 points in the opening frame, as they went into the second with a 14-10 lead.
Rolla dominated the first five minutes of the second quarter, holding West Plains to just one point over that span. The Bulldog lead was stretched out to 20-11 with three minutes left to play, but the Zizzers dominated the last few minutes of the half. West Plains closed the half on a 13-3 run to go into halftime with a slim 24-23 lead after a last second layup by Garrett Warren.
The Bulldogs came into the third quarter with some fire after giving away their lead and quickly took their lead back for good. Rolla scored the first eight points of the half on threes by Martin and Pritchett, as well as a basket from Alec Buhr. After a three by West Plains, Rolla scored the next seven points and their lead continued to expand. While the Bulldogs got off to a great start, foul trouble started to set in mid-way through the third. Pritchett and Nick Janke both reached three fouls by the middle of the quarter and spent a majority of the third on the bench. With two starters on the bench, the rest of the lineup stepped up. Martin and Buhr each added six points to their total in the third, while Aaron Cunningham and Muluken Pritchett each buried a three from the corner. Rolla stretched their lead to 46-33 lead.
Rolla's lead never got smaller than 13 points in the fourth quarter, as J. Pritchett put things into overdrive to close out the game. The senior captain scored 12 points in the fourth, while making eight of his 10 free throw attempts down the stretch. Davie Pound and Buhr each added threes, as Rolla coasted to a 67-51 win.
J. Pritchett led all scorers with 22 points, while Martin and Buhr each added 15. Head coach Mark Miller was proud to see his team get a tough win against a physical opponent.
"They played some good basketball in the second half against a really physical basketball team," said coach Miller. "Not only are they physical, but they hit some shots in the second half and also in the first half, they shot the ball pretty well. West Plains, if they shoot the ball, they're gonna be a competitive team."
One of the real positives for Rolla is the fact that they didn't struggle when J. Pritchett and Janke got into foul trouble. Different players stepped up when those two were forced to the bench, which will pay off down the home stretch.
"I thought they maintained a lot of composure in that second half, especially. We made some shots and it helped us get some feet under us a little bit, but the physicality of the game didn't cease," said coach Miller. "There were some different things we had to play through and when you get roughed up like that, you get frustrated. I was proud of my guys that they maintained composure and just kept going forward."
Gritty wins like the Bulldogs had on Friday night are important for a team that has proved they can play at a high level all year long. The good teams win games where they aren't playing their best and Rolla continues to prove that they're a great team.
"50 percent of the time, you're playing an average game, 25 percent of the time, you're playing some of your best and 25 percent, you're playing some of your worst," said coach Miller. "You've gotta be able to win in all of those situations and I feel like so far the guys have really done quite a job through it all."
The JV went on to lose to West Plains 46-40. Colby Shivers led the Bulldogs with 10 points in the loss.
Rolla will stay in the Ozark Conference when they host Parkview on Tuesday, Feb. 6. While Parkview's record isn't anything special at 10-8, the Bulldogs won't be sleeping on the Vikings.
"Parkview's tough. That's one of those teams that was picked to be at the top of the conference early on and they've not had as much success at people have expected," said coach Miller. "But it's a very dangerous team, a quality team and we'll need to be clicking on all cylinders."