The Rolla boys basketball team (21-3) hosted Pacific for Senior Night on Tuesday, Feb. 20. The Bulldogs fought through foul trouble and forced overtime with their two leading scorers sidelined, but fell short in the extra period 52-46.
Rolla looked pretty sloppy early on, but stayed in the game thanks to consistency from Nick Janke in the paint. The Bulldogs through several wild passes in the quarter, which led to a number of unforced turnovers, but Janke provided some much needed offense. The senior scored Rolla's first seven points in the quarter, but the Bulldogs had just one other basket from Josh Pritchett. Defensively, Rolla stood strong, so they were only in a 10-9 hole through a quarter of play.
The Bulldog offense didn't pick up in the second, as Rolla just couldn't get shots to fall. Pritchett was able to knock down a three, but the only other Rolla points came from a pair of free throws from Alec Buhr. Pacific didn't have a ton of offense either, but Cameron Van Leer scored four points to lead the Indians into the half with a 20-14 lead.
While Rolla continued to struggle offensively in the third quarter, the defense was unstoppable. Pacific almost didn't score in the quarter, as there was only 40 seconds left in the quarter when the Indians got their first points. Rolla chipped away at Pacific in the meantime, eventually taking a 24-20 lead on four straight points from Buhr. Unfortunately, Buhr wouldn't have the chance to finish the quarter, as he was called for a technical foul with 2.3 seconds left and he spent the remainder of the game on the bench. Pacific closed out the third with four straight points, tying the game at 24 heading into the final frame.
The offenses came to play in the fourth and for Rolla, it was all Coby Martin. After scoring two points at the free throw line through three quarters, Martin went off for 12 points in the fourth, all but five of which came from the free throw line. Pacific took the lead right out of the gate when Van Leer hit a three, but Rolla would never let them get comfortable. The game got messy with 2:40 left. Pacific was in the lead 34-32 when Pritchett drove to the basket and was called for a charge. The foul was his fifth, so the Bulldogs were now without their top two scorers. But that didn't stop Rolla.
Pacific was able to maintain a small lead until the final 30 seconds. Senior Davie Pound scored his first basket of the night with 27 seconds left to tie the game at 39 and Blaize Klossner instantly followed that with a steal on the inbounds pass. Martin hit two more free throws with 16.2 seconds left to take a 41-39 lead, but Pacific wouldn't go down without a fight. Matt Strong got the ball in the corner as the clock was winding down, he split the Rolla trap and hit a baseline floater as the clock hit zero, sending the game into overtime.
The game was back and forth throughout the overtime period with each team hitting big shots. Pacific was able to take their final lead on a three by Jordan Cowsert with 1:38 to go. Martin was able to get Rolla within one point with 26 seconds to play, but he fouled out trying to stop a breakaway seconds later. Cowsert made the layup and made the free throw to sink Rolla for good. Pacific went on to win the game 52-46.
"A lot of guys stepped up," said head coach Mark Miller after the game. "I'm really proud of how hard Nick Janke played. He was really sick and I thought he gave a real strong game."
Janke played a great game despite his illness. He scored eight points and gave the Rolla some tough minutes after losing Buhr and Pritchett. Martin led Rolla with 17 points, Pritchett added nine and Buhr chipped in eight in the loss.
Rolla has struggled to score at times in the last couple of weeks and coach Miller said the key to turning things around is getting healthy.
"Well we're gonna have to get healthy, we've got a couple of guys that are sick," said Miller. "I think we just need to have some time to recover. We'll have to turn around and play Waynesville on Thursday, but after that we need to get a little rest and maybe take a long weekend."
Rolla had the chance to celebrate their four seniors Pritchett, Janke, Pound and Aaron Cunningham before the game, as well as honoring Pritchett's 1,000 career points. Coach Miller only had great things to say about his senior class.
"To have a game like this on a senior night for these guys is really frustrating, because it's not even close to indicative of what these guys have earned and accomplished," said Miller after the game. "I'm really proud of these guys."
Rolla will wrap up their regular season with a trip to Waynesville on Thursday, Feb. 22.