All good things must come to an end and, unfortunately, that includes the Rolla girls basketball team's monumental winning streak. Their magic number stopped climbing with a trip to Class 5 #7 Kickapoo on Monday, Feb. 11. The Lady Bulldogs, who entered the game ranked fourth in Class 4, fought tooth and nail all night long, but couldn't get a couple of big shots to fall late in a 62-55 loss to the three-time defending Ozark Conference Champions.
The Rolla offense struggled to get much going from the field early on Monday night, as they made just two shots from the field in the opening quarter. Loran Pritchett carried the load early on, making one of those two field goals, while adding four free throws. She scored six points, while Ellie Rodgers added a three in the quarter. Kickapoo, meanwhile, got their offense going through sophomore forward Indya Green, who scored six points in the post to help the Lady Chiefs grab an early 12-9 lead.
Rolla picked up the scoring in the second by spreading the ball around. Rodgers and Savannah Campbell each scored five points in the quarter, while Carli Libhart added a three, Pritchett chipped in with a basket and Kianna Garner knocked down a free throw. That added up to a 16 point quarter for Rolla, but Kickapoo kept pace on the back of Green. The Kickapoo forward added another seven points in the quarter, which helped the Lady Chiefs carry a slim 26-25 lead into the half.
The close game carried into the second half, but Rolla was able to break through and take the lead into the fourth quarter. Rodgers knocked down a three for the third straight quarter, while Pritchett did the heavy lifting in the post with five points. This was the first quarter where Rolla was able to hold Green off the scoreboard, which helped them limit the Lady Chiefs to just 11 points in the third. The Lady Bulldogs scored 14 points of their own, as they went into the fourth clinging to a 39-37 lead.
The game continued to be back and forth throughout the fourth quarter, but Kickapoo got some big shots from Bella Fontleroy late. First she knocked down a big three to put the Lady Chiefs out in front 56-53 with 1:25 left in the game. She followed that with a steal and a pair of free throws later in the quarter to hold off the Lady Bulldogs. Rolla searched for a clutch three late, but couldn't find the game-tying bucket. Kickapoo was able to grab the rebound and hit two more free throws to finish off Rolla 62-55 and hand the Lady Bulldogs their first loss since falling to Jefferson City way back on Nov. 26. The loss was also Rolla's first Ozark Conference setback of the season.
"We are disappointed in losing, but the girls played extremely well against a quality, well-coached team on the road. We answered every run that Kickapoo made, but ran out of time in the end," said head coach Luke Floyd on the game. "Defensively, we rebounded pretty well, made them take contested shots, and took away their dribble drive for the most part."
Rodgers led the Bulldogs with 18 points in the loss, while Pritchett chipped in with another 17. Campbell added seven points, Libhart scored six, Rebecca Janke scored four, Olivia Burken chipped in with two and Garner added a free throw.
While the loss all but takes away Rolla (19-3, 6-1 OC) being able to win the Ozark Conference outright, they can still clinch a share of the title. Rolla and Kickapoo each have an Ozark Conference loss on the season, as the Lady Chiefs fell to West Plains earlier this season. Kickapoo has one Ozark Conference game left against Waynesville, while Rolla will close their season at Glendale on Thursday, Feb. 14 and at home against Lebanon on Monday, Feb. 18.
"We talked after the game how we still have all of our goals on the table. If we win our last two, we can still be co-champs of the OC which would be a huge accomplishment," said coach Floyd. "And of course we still have postseason to look forward to. I’m proud of the girls and honored to get to be a part of all of this with them."