The Rolla girls basketball team (9-13, 3-4 OC) hosted Kickapoo on Tuesday, Feb. 12 for an Ozark Conference matchup. The Lady Bulldogs got off to a slow start, but worked their way back into the game in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the comeback fell short in a 57-45 loss.
The first quarter put Rolla behind the eight ball right off the gate. Kickapoo went off for 16 points in the first quarter and the Lady Bulldogs couldn't keep pace. The Lady Bulldogs scored nine points in the opening quarter, led by five points from Mattie Dean.
Rolla was behind 16-9 through a quarter of play, but started to chip away at that lead in the second. Kiana Garner went off for eight points in the quarter to lead a 12-point charge from Rolla. The Lady Bulldog defense held Kickapoo to 10 in the second, cutting the deficit to 26-21 at the half.
Much like the first quarter, the Lady Bulldogs didn't get out to a great start in the third. Kickapoo ran out to a 14-2 start to stretch their lead out to 40-23, but Rolla wasn't ready to pack it in quite yet. The Lady Bulldogs ended the quarter on a 4-2 run, but really made things interesting in the fourth.
Rolla opened the fourth quarter in a 43-27 hole, but went on a tear to open the final quarter. Ellie Rodgers was a force in the quarter, scoring 10 points, five of which came from the charity stripe. The Lady Bulldogs were able to trim the lead to six with just over three minutes to play. Their offense was boosted by great defenses that forced several turnovers, leading to easy points in transition. Loran Pritchett added six points in the fourth, as Rolla had their best offensive quarter of the night with 18. Kickapoo had the last laugh though, holding Rolla to just two points in the final three minutes to finish off a 57-45 win.
The Lady Bulldogs have struggled to get out of the gate their last couple of games, digging some big first quarter holes to dig out of. Head coach Luke Floyd takes the blame for not having the right gameplan, but credits his team for making adjustments as the game goes on.
"I think it comes down to coaching. Our opponents come out and have a good gameplan to start the game, then they make good adjustments at halftime. I think that's something I haven't done a very good job of. That comes back on me," said Floyd. "Once we get into the flow of a game, then I think the girls adjust well and they really get into it, but I've got to do a better job of getting us ready to start games."
Coach Floyd credits the defensive effort in the second and fourth quarters to helping Rolla get back into the ballgame several times.
"I thought we really picked up the pressure on defense," said coach Floyd of their better quarters. "We weren't as reactionary, we really got up and tried to create things defensively. If we can kinda dictate where the ball is going and get some pressure defensively, it's able to lead to transition buckets for us."
Rodgers and Garner led the way for Rolla in the win, each scoring 13 points. Garner added a team-high nine assists, five rebounds and a steal, while Rodgers chipped in another two steals, two assists and a rebound. Pritchett added eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds, along with two blocks. Mattie Dean scored seven points and had two boards. Rebecca Janke wasn't able to make a huge impact offensively with two points, but she did lead the team in blocks with five, while adding five rebounds and two steals.
Coach Floyd says this team lives and dies on the performance of Rodgers at the point and it proved true on Tuesday. When she was on, Rolla was able to get back into the game.
"(The key for Rodgers is) Playing with confidence more than anything," said the Rolla head coach. "Fair or unfair, I tell her all the time that the team kind of goes as she goes. So if she can get up and create turnovers defensively, the rest of the team follows. If she's kind of hesitant and turns the ball over on offense, the team follows. It's a lot of pressure, but as a point guard, you're the leader and the quarterback on the floor."
While it's a tough loss to take, Rolla has nothing to hang their head on in the loss. Kickapoo is currently ranked third in Class 5 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association and this is a game that will provide some good lessons down the home stretch.
"We played a good team. I think Kickapoo is ranked number three in Class 5 and we gave them everything we want," said Floyd. "I told the girls, the last three years the game with Kickapoo has been over after the first quarter...to be in the game with two or three minutes to go shows how far we've come as a program and what we're capable of the last couple of weeks of the season.
Kickapoo also won the JV contest 50-34. Hailey Haas led the Lady Bulldogs with 22 points in the loss.
Rolla will host Glendale for Senior Night on Thursday, Feb. 15.