The Rolla boys basketball team hosted St. James on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Rolla got out to a fast start and never looked back, beating their cross town rival 66-49.
St. James struggled to get into an offensive rhythm early on and the Bulldogs took advantage. Rolla scored the first five points of the game and sprinted out to a 19-9 lead through the first quarter. Rolla had a few players get in on the scoring effort early. Alec Buhr and Trey Quick each scored six points, while Trey Brown added five more in a strong opening quarter. Andrew Branson helped St. James stay afloat early with five points of his own.
The Tigers were able to close the gap in the second, as Austin Ridenhour scored two straight baskets in transition to cut the score to 19-13. St. James got within four points with a 6-0 run to start the second quarter, but a bucket from Danny Foster got Rolla back on the scoreboard. The middle of the quarter saw a flurry of scoring. First Drew Moritz hit a corner three for St. James. Benjamin Colench instantly responded with a three of his own for Rolla, before St. James punched back with a triple from Mason Parker. Parker followed the three with a steal, which eventually led to Andrew Branson drawing a foul. A Tiger free throw brought the score to 26-22, but Rolla buried St. James for the rest of the quarter. Buhr scored seven points down the stretch, which included a steal and dunk, as Rolla's lead ballooned out to 41-27 at the half.
St. James hung around in the second half, but Rolla never let them close the gap. Brown led the scoring charge for Rolla in the third quarter with five points, as Rolla found a response for every St. James basket. The third quarter came to and end with the Bulldogs leading 55-40.
Rolla just needed to maintain their lead in the fourth quarter and they did that with relative ease. Buhr added five more points in the final frame, while Quick chipped in with four more. St. James couldn't cut into the deficit down the stretch, as Rolla finished off a 66-49 win.
Buhr led all scorers with 21 points in the victory. He was one of four Bulldogs in double figures on the night, as Brown added 14 more points, Quick scored 12 and Danny Foster had 10. Muluken Pritchett chipped in with four points, Colench added three off the bench and Colby Shivers scored two points.
"We've got guys that can shoot it, we've got guys that can attack it. It puts a lot of pressure on defenses," said head coach Mark Miller on the number of scoring options that Rolla has. "I really like what we've seen out of Trey Brown as we've given him more time. He's producing for us. It's not just on the offensive end, he's getting some boards for us and playing some defense. We can bring in guys like Ben Colench that can really shoot it. I just feel like with RJ and Blaize and Shivers up there on the point, we've got a lot of guys that can handle an attack."
One guy that has really opened things up for those shooters is Buhr. He's spent a lot of time slashing to the basket this season and scoring in bunches, which helps get his teammates some good looks on the perimeter. Coach Miller has liked what he's seen both on the court and as a leader from Buhr this season.
"Buhr is just a great leader for us. He's got a solid game all the way around. Defensively, on the boards, offensively," said coach Miller. "What we haven't seen a lot of is that he can shoot the perimeter shot too. He's chosen to attack more and go to the free throw line, because he makes a lot of free throws."
While coach Miller was happy with the victory, he doesn't want his team to get complacent.
"When you walk away winning by 17, you've got to be pleased, but we need to make sure we keep working on details of the game," said Miller. "We need to focus on continuing to get better."
As for St. James, Branson led the scoring effort with 16 points. Rolla went out of their way to shut down Tyler Recker, who finished the game with nine points. Parker added 10 points, Moritz chipped in with five, Ridenhour had four, Gavin Caldwell scored three and Tate Whitener had two in the contest.
"Rolla is a good team. They did a nice job of shooting the ball and making our shooters uncomfortable," said head coach Ben Smith. "Overall, I was pleased with the effort our guys played with. We didn't shoot the ball well, but we still battled hard to keep ourselves in the game. It's good experience for us to play in that type of atmosphere and I think it will only help us going forward."
St. James will get a chance to play on their home court for the first time this season when they host Salem on Friday, while Rolla has the rest of the week off. The Bulldogs' next game will also come against Salem. They'll face the Tigers at Salem on Tuesday, Dec. 11.