A look at host Rolla High boys' basketball squad.
The host Rolla High School boys’ basketball squad is putting in one of the finest teams is has fielded during the 28 years it has hosted a holiday tournament this season.
The problem is, this just might be the strongest field the Bulldog event has ever had.
The 28th annual US Bank/RHS Holiday Invitational Tournament will be held Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 29-31, at the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building at Missouri S&T as well as the RHS main gym.
In first-round games at the Bullman Building on Monday, Hickman faces Salem at 2 p.m., Rogers Heritage, Ark. meets Francis Howell Central at 3:30 p.m., Waynesville takes on Warrensburg at 5 p.m. and Rolla plays Festus at 6:30 p.m.
On Tuesday at the Bullman Building, the Hickman-Salem loser plays the Rolla-Festus loser at 2 p.m. and the Waynesville-Warrensburg loser plays the Heritage-Howell Central loser at 3:30 p.m. in consolation play while the Hickman-Salem winner meets the Rolla-Festus winner at 5 p.m. and the Waynesville-Warrensburg winner takes on the Heritage-Howell Central winner at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
On Wednesday the seventh-place game is slated for 10:30 a.m. at the Bullman Building and at the RHS gym the fifth-place game is set for 10:30 a.m., the third-place game for 1:30 p.m. and the championship game for 4:30 p.m.
Waynesville is the defending champion, beating Rolla 67-54 in last year’s title game.
There are two state-ranked teams from Missouri (Rolla and Waynesville) and one from Arkansas (Rogers Heritage) in the field, as well as the returning Missouri Class 5 State Tournament runner-up (Columbia Hickman), another team coming off a tournament championship (Francis Howell Central in the Hillsboro Tourney) and yet another that was the top-seed in its last tourney (Festus, in the Hillsboro event).
Seven of the eight teams in the field will come in with a winning record.
“It’s high-quality,” Rolla head coach Mark Miller of the competition in the US Bank/RHS event. “I haven’t seen a better field in it that I can remember. It’s going to be quite a test. Whoever wins that thing will have three quality wins.”
And the host Bulldogs figure to be one of the teams to watch.
Rolla comes in with a 7-0 record and its highest state ranking in decades, moving up to No. 4 in the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 4 poll this week.
The Bulldogs are coming off an impressive 70-54 victory over Springfield Central.
Perhaps Rolla’s most impressive victory so far was over Har-Ber (Ark.) on its way to the Republic Tournament championship. Her-Ber boasted a 6-8 Division I signee as well as another Division II signee in its lineup.
“We feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders right now,” Miller said. “And the mental approach is really something I want us to continue to work on.”
The Bulldogs have been very successful with an up-tempo offense, averaging 76.4 points. And many of those points were of the transitional variety, as RHS has forced turnovers in bunches.
And the squad has been a strong perimeter shooting team. As a squad it is shooting 37 percent from three-point range, and against St. James tied the single-game school record in treys made at 14.
Balanced scoring has also been a Bulldog constant this season.
Caleb Copeland, a 6-4 senior forward, averages 15.4 points for Rolla while 5-10 junior guard Kobe Wands averages 14.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.4 steals, has hit 85 percent from the free throw line and 9-of-28 from three-point range.
Also for the balanced Bulldogs 6-2 junior guard Logan Short comes off the bench to average 9.4 points (10-of-23 three-pointers); 6-4 junior guard/forward Sam Marshall 8.7 points and 88 percent from the free throw line; 6-5 senior guard/forward Shane O’Brennan 7.9 points (7-of-21 three-pointers); 6-2 senior guard Landon Maynard 6.7 points; 5-11 senior guard Carter Wands 6.0 points, 5.1 assists, 2.9 steals (4-of-10 three-pointers); 6-2 junior guard/forward Zach Brown 5.0 points, and 6-0 senior guard Jordan Kaden 2.1 points.