The Rolla boys basketball team made history on Friday, Jan. 4 when they hosted Springfield Central for their Ozark Conference opener. The Bulldogs got hot from three right out of the gate and finished the game with a school record 19 baskets from behind the arc on the way to a 90-57 win, breaking the school record of 18 set against Cuba in the St. James tournament in 2016.
Blaize Klossner set the tone for Rolla right out of the gate, knocking down a three for the first points of the game. The Bulldogs started the game on a 7-0 run, but Central was able to hang around for a while, eventually getting within a point with a score of 9-8. Klossner hit another three, before a Central basket, followed by a dunk and free throw gave Central a 13-12 lead. After that it was all Rolla. The Bulldogs finished the first quarter with a barrage of threes. First Muluken Pritchett hit a pair, then Klossner knocked down his third. Trey Brown then added a three before Klossner hit his fourth just before the end of the quarter. The flurry of threes gave Rolla a 29-17 lead after a quarter of play.
The Bulldogs put the game away with more hot shooting in the second quarter. Pritchett opened the quarter with a three, before threes from Alec Buhr and Benjamin Colench. Klossner then knocked down three more from long range before the end of the first half, bringing his total to seven and Rolla's total for the game to 13. The Bulldogs added excellent defense in the second quarter, holding Central to just two points. That put the game quickly out of reach, as Rolla led 53-19 at the half.
Rolla would go on to lead by 40 points in the second half, running away with the easy win. But with 13 threes in the opening half, the school record of 18 was in sight. The three point pace slowed down a bit in the third, but Brown, Pritchett and RJ Alfred all managed to connect from long range in the third. Danny Foster was able to hit a three early in the fourth to bring the total to 17, before Connor Joyce tied the school record with 1:10 left to play. It looked like the Bulldogs would have to settle for the tie, but in the final second, Colench hustled down the court and fired one more three at the buzzer. The shot fell and Rolla broke the record with a total of 19 threes.
"At about halftime we kind of realized after a big second quarter that we had a chance at the record and I'd be lying standing here saying that we weren't going for it, we definitely did," said Klossner after the game. "It's nice to put the ball hole and shoot good from deep."
Klossner had an unbelievable night shooting the ball on his own, making seven threes in the first half alone. He scored 25 points in the win. Klossner isn't one to fire up a ton of shots every night, but he had a feeling he was going to get hot on Friday night.
"It was just a confidence thing," said the senior point guard. "I was feeling good in pregame and then I made the first one I decided to keep shooting. They kept giving me space, teammates got me open and the ball fell in the hole."
But it wasn't just Klossner on Friday night. Pritchett finished the game with 12 points on four threes. Trey Quick and Foster each had 10 points with Foster knocking down a three. Brown had eight points and a pair of threes, as did Colench, who knocked down the record breaking three. Buhr returned to the lineup after missing two games, but was eased back in with five points. A total of 11 different Bulldogs scored in the blowout 90-57 victory. Head coach Mark Miller was thrilled to see so many kids getting involved in the record-breaking performance.
"Blaize got things started and everybody else chimed in. The three ball was definitely falling," said coach Miller. (Klossner) is one of those guys that we expect a lot out of. He does so many things right and he's been shooting the ball very well in practice and to see him have the success in the game like that, we like seeing him have success.
"We've got several guys that are capable of starting for our basketball team and the competition is a good thing," continued Miller. "We've got guys busting it, trying to get better. It looks to me like we're getting better."
While the scoring was great, Rolla also played some excellent defense, particularly in the second quarter, to put the game away quickly. Coach Miller was proud of the defensive effort in the win.
"They play tough D, they work really hard," said the Rolla head coach. "They run and jump, they see the next pass well, they trap well. It's a good bunch."
This record was exactly what the doctor ordered to start 2019 for the Bulldogs and should be a great confidence booster for Rolla after taking their first two losses of the season to finish off 2018.
"We've got to keep working hard in practice," said Klossner. "This is just one game, we're worried about Districts and everything after that. We've just got to take practice one day at a time and keep getting better."
Rolla will look to keep that momentum going as they host Hillcrest for another Ozark Conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 8.