The #6 Rolla girls basketball team (17-2, 4-0 OC) hosted #7 West Plains for a matchup of ranked Ozark Conference foes on Thursday, Jan. 31. The Lady Bulldogs scored the first nine points of the game and never looked back in an dominant 69-45 win over West Plains.
The Lady Bulldogs got out to a near perfect start on Thursday night. Rolla won the opening tip, which led to an easy basket by Ellie Rodgers. The Lady Bulldogs then instantly got a steal, which led to a quick bucket from Rebecca Janke. West Plains didn't get on the scoreboard until a pair of free throws nearly three minutes into the quarter, but Rolla had already scored nine points. The Lady Bulldogs followed those free throws with six straight points, before West Plains scored their first field goal with 2:34 left in the half. At that point, Rolla led 15-4 and ended the quarter with a 19-9 lead after a late three by Cass Cunningham. Head coach Luke Floyd loved the way his team established themselves right off the opening tip.
"We could not have scripted that any better," said coach Floyd on the start of the game. "Against Helias, we did the same thing. From the opening tip we came out focused ready to play ball and tonight we did that. Scoring off the tip, getting a steal, getting another layup. It just builds our confidence and I think it takes a little bit of wind out of their sails."
The second quarter started with a back and forth barrage of scoring, but Rolla maintained a consistent 10 point lead. West Plains stayed close late, until Rodgers hit a three with 1:37 left to play in the half. She then followed that three with a steal and score, extending the Rolla lead to 35-21. The Lady Bulldogs added four points late by Janke and Savannah Campbell, giving Rolla a 9-0 run to close the quarter and extend their lead out to 39-23 at the half. Rodgers and Campbell each finished the first half with 12 points, while Janke added another eight points in a great first half.
The Lady Bulldogs opened the second half on a 9-3 run, stretching their lead out to 48-26. Rolla played some lock down defense in the quarter, holding West Plains to a total of nine points in the third to put the game away. Six different Lady Bulldogs scored in the quarter, as their lead ballooned out to 53-32 leading into the fourth.
Rodgers put an exclamation point on the win with two more threes in the fourth, bringing her total on the game to five. Janke and Campbell each scored four more points, as Rolla slammed the door shut on a 69-45 win. Rodgers said after the game that they knew West Plains would give them their best game, but they wanted to use excellent defense to show that the Lady Bulldogs can slow down a great offense.
"We knew it was going to be a good game, we knew they were going to push the ball and we knew they were going to have a good offense, so we just came out and tried to focus on defense and hold them under 45 points," said the junior point guard. "We held them to 45, so we made our goal."
Rolla loves to work the ball inside-out on the offensive end and they did that to a T against West Plains. Rodgers led all scorers with 21 points, while Campbell added 17, Janke chipped in with another 14 and Loran Pritchett scored eight in a great team performance. The Lady Bulldogs also got six points from Carli Libhart and three points from Kianna Garner.
"We're playing inside-out and I don't think there's any one person you can key on," said coach Floyd. "Early on, we had Savannah, Loran and Rebecca working inside. West Plains kind of made the adjustment and started packing it in a little bit, so when Ellie got hot in the second half we were able to hit from the outside. We're just a very well balanced team and we're a very unselfish team. I think the girls do a really good job of recognizing who has the hot hand and getting them the ball."
This week was an important one for the Lady Bulldogs. Rolla moved up to sixth in the state rankings and responded with wins against a pair of ranked teams. Coach Floyd is proud of what this team has accomplished so far with their now 16 game win streak, but there is still a lot of season left.
"I think so. We just talked in the locker room and said that our goal is to come in tomorrow and get better than we were today and the girls know that, we know we haven't arrived," said Floyd. "We're excited where we are, but we still have a lot of basketball left. Monday we have a very good Parkview team coming in and that's going to be the defacto championship of the Sedalia Tournament, so we told them we're getting ready to win a championship on Monday. The girls are staying very humble in what we're doing and they know that we haven't arrived at our end goals yet."
While the Lady Bulldogs aren't trying to focus to much on that win streak number, Rodgers and her teammates have been enjoying this historic run.
"We've definitely never had anything like this in the past few seasons, so everyone's just super excited and super pumped to keep it going," said Rodgers. "We're definitely going to use this going into Districts."
Rolla will finish their season with five straight Ozark Conference games. After hosting Parkview on Monday, Feb. 4, the Lady Bulldogs will play three road games against Camdenton, Kickapoo and Glendale, before finishing their season at home against Lebanon.