The Rolla boys basketball team hosted Hillcrest for an Ozark Conference matchup on Tuesday, Jan. 8. The Bulldogs earned their second straight conference win in a 74-40 victory.
Rolla got out to a slow start on Tuesday night, turning the ball over several times early in the first quarter. The Bulldog offense stayed afloat early thanks to some hot shooting from three. Blaize Klossner and Muluken Pritchett got things started, but Hillcrest kept hanging around. A three by RJ Aflred, which was quickly followed by a three from Alec Buhr, gave Rolla the lead for good with a couple minutes to play in the first. The Bulldogs finished the first quarter with a 20-11 lead and never looked back.
"We had a little trouble getting started, because we had too many turnovers," said head coach Mark Miller after the game. "Turning the ball over and early foul trouble threw us out of rhythm, but the great thing about our bunch is that there's a bunch of guys that we can play that we don't see any let up from them when they go out. Our bench came out tonight and did a fantastic job."
The Bulldogs kept rolling in the second quarter on the back of an excellent defensive performance. Hillcrest scored just five points in the second quarter, while Rolla added 15 points on the back of a pair of threes from Klossner and seven points from Buhr. The Bulldogs stormed into the half with a 35-16 lead.
"When we rebound well, it puts a whole lot of pressure on the other team, because we play real tough defense and make other teams take shots that they're not real comfortable shooting," said coach Miller of the second quarter. "When we go get the rebound, we can score it on the other end. When (opposing teams are) not getting second looks on the other end, it puts a lot of pressure on them."
Hillcrest kept the game from getting out of hand in the third quarter, scoring 16 points in the quarter, but the Rolla offense stayed hot. Klossner hit two more threes in the third, while Colby Shivers and Trey Brown also added threes. The Bulldogs scored 22 points in the third to take a 57-32 lead into the fourth. Rolla put the game away by holding Hillcrest to just eight points in the fourth, while adding 17 of their own. Pritchett scored seven points, while RJ Alfred chipped in with five more points in the quarter. Rolla went on to win the game 74-40.
Klossner stayed hot from long range to lead Rolla with 18 points. After knocking down seven threes in their previous game against Springfield Central, the senior point guard hit five threes against Hillcrest. Buhr added 17 points for the Bulldogs, while RJ Alfred scored 12 points. Pritchett chipped in with 10 points, Brown had seven and Shivers scored four points in the win.
The victory is Rolla's second in the Ozark Conference this season. Coach Miller thinks these two early conference wins for Rolla will be a good spark for a strong run in the conference this year.
"In our conference there's a lot of parity this year, but you just always feel like you can't lose any games to be conference champions," said the Rolla head coach. "That's one of our goals to be Ozark Conference Champions and I'm glad we're off to a 2-0 start. We've still got a lot of work to get done."
Rolla's next game was moved up a day due to weather. The Bulldogs will now host Helias on Thursday, Jan. 10.