The Rolla girls basketball team (21-3, 8-1 OC) finished off their regular season with a matchup against Lebanon on Monday, Feb. 18. After a back and forth start, the Lady Bulldogs took the game over in the second and never let up in a 60-33 win to claim a share of the Ozark Conference Championship.
Rolla and Lebanon started the game by trading baskets for most of the first quarter. Ellie Rodgers helped the Lady Bulldogs take control with threes on back to back possessions, which led to a strong run at the end of the quarter. Rolla led by as many as seven points after a three from Madison Mace, before Lebanon cut the score to 19-14 at the end of the quarter.
After allowing 14 points in the first, the Rolla defense shutdown the Lady Yellowjackets for the rest of the game. Lebanon managed just seven points in the second quarter, as the Lady Bulldogs extended their lead. Carli Libhart matched Lebanon's scoring effort single-handedly with seven points. Savannah Campbell put the cherry on top of a solid quarter by scoring at the buzzer to give Rolla a 32-21 lead at the half.
The Lady Bulldogs out the game away for good in the third. Rolla kept Lebanon off the board for nearly six minutes of the quarter, as their lead ballooned. Rodgers added another five points in the quarter, while Mace and Libhart each chipped in with a three. Rolla one the quarter 15-5, as they ran into the fourth with a 47-26 lead.
Rolla finished off the game with a solid fourth quarter, extending their lead out to 30 points and putting subbing out most of their regulars down the stretch. Rodgers knocked down one more three in the quarter, while Kianna Garner and Savannah Campbell each scored four points to help finish off a 60-33 win.
Rodgers led all scorers with 14 points in the win and she really gave the Rolla offense the shot in the arm that they needed early. Head coach Luke Floyd has been impressed with her leadership this season and her ability to step up when the team needs her most.
"It's just leadership. It's being a three-year starter, it's being the point guard that's running the team. She doesn't get rattled like she has in the past. Right now she's just extremely confident in her shot," said coach Floyd. "Coming into the night she was shooting over 55 percent in conference play from three, which is just unbelievable. I'm sure it went up tonight, because she only missed one or two."
Freshman Carli Libhart added 12 points for Rolla, as nine different Lady Bulldogs scored on the way to victory. Campbell chipped in with eight, while Garner, Mace and Loran Pritchett each had six. Rebecca Janke had all of the Lebanon defense focused on her, which opened things up for the guards, but she still managed four points to go along with some excellent defense inside. Olivia Burken and Kate Brand each added two points in the win. That unselfish team play is exactly what coach Floyd expects out of his team.
"We're a very close-knit team and we rely on one another a lot," said coach Floyd. "They don't panic, they weather the storms. In years past, if we start the way we did tonight, we're down 10, 12 or 15 after the first and we'd just fall apart. Tonight, we stayed cool, stayed calm and made the adjustments we needed to make and a lot of times the adjustments are made by them. We just have tremendous leadership and a group of girls that are on a mission to do some special things."
Rolla was able to check off a couple of their season goals with the win. They were able to secure a tie with Kickapoo for the Ozark Conference Championship, finishing the season with an 8-1 record in the conference. The Lady Bulldogs also managed to finish their season with a perfect 11-0 record on their home court.
"I think it's just validation for their hard work," said coach Floyd on reaching some of their goals for the season. "It's awesome to look around the stands tonight for a packed house. We started the season where even through our holiday tournament, we were drawing 50, maybe 60 people and tonight it's almost standing room only. That's a credit to the girls, going out and working hard, showing these people that they're worth rooting for and I just couldn't be more proud of them."
Rolla enters District play next week as the top seed of the tournament. They will have a first round bye, before playing the winner between Salem and Union on Monday, Feb. 25.