The Rolla boys basketball team faced off against Sullivan for the Class 4 District 10 Championship on Friday, Mar. 1. The Bulldogs played a great first half, but stumbled in the second half in a 48-38 loss.
Rolla got out to a solid start against Sullivan, playing a back and forth game in the first quarter. The biggest lead either of the two typically potent offenses could grab in the opening frame was three points, as defense ruled the first half. Alec Buhr and Trey Quick each scored four points for Rolla in the first, as the were able to grab a 9-8 lead through a quarter of play.
While the Bulldogs played good defense in the first, they were nearly perfect in the second frame. Rolla opened the quarter with a 10-0 run thanks to threes from Colby Shivers and Muluken Pritchett, while holding Sullivan off the board. Buhr was also able to eclipse 1,000 points for his career with a basket two minutes into the quarter. The Eagles didn't get on the scoreboard until Cody McKinney knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:49 left in the opening half. Rolla responded with a pair of buckets, before Sullivan made their only field goal of the second quarter with 53 seconds left in the half. Buhr added a free throw before the break, as Rolla went into the half with a 24-12 lead.
The Bulldogs started to slip in the second half, while Sullivan started to heat up. Buhr scored Rolla's first four points of the quarter, but was called for a technical after making his second basket with 5:00 left to play in the third. Rolla has a team rule that any player who gets a technical foul stays on the bench for the remainder of the game, so Buhr would not return after the foul. With Buhr on the bench, Sullivan roared back. The Bulldogs maintained a 10 point lead until the 1:53 mark, when Blaize Klossner was called for his third foul and McKinney converted on a three point play to bring the score to 30-24. Quick's third foul allowed Sullivan to add another free throw 23 seconds later, before McKinney buried a three at the buzzer to cut the Rolla lead to 30-28 heading into the fourth.
The Eagles kept their hot hand as the fourth quarter started. A three from RJ Alfred helped Rolla hold onto their lead for a while, but a three followed by a pair of free throws from McKinney tied the game at 33 with 5:09 left to play. Landon Hoffman then knocked down a three to give Sullivan a lead they would never surrender. Fouls continued to hurt Rolla down the stretch, as they were forced to send Sullivan to the line repeatedly down the stretch. Klossner fouled out with 1:35 left to play. The Bulldogs only trailed by three when he fouled out. Sullivan closed out the game at the free throw line, taking down Rolla 48-38.
Buhr led Rolla with 11 points before his technical foul sent him to the bench. Shivers added seven, while Alfred chipped in with six. Quick, Pritchett and Trey Brown each had four, while Klossner had two points in the loss. McKinney led all scorers with 26, 16 of which came from the free throw line.
"We really executed our game plan so well. The guys played extremely hard and switching to man to man defense completely stifled the offense of McKinney and Hoffman especially. When you hold a team to four twos and four threes from the field, you've really done something," said head coach Mark Miller on Rolla's defensive effort in the loss. "Our guys did that with all of their hard work and communication."
While coach Miller was disappointed that his team isn't moving on to Sectionals, the most difficult part will be not getting to coach this great group of seniors anymore.
"It's extremely disappointing for all of us, because we had great expectations and high hopes of moving on," said coach Miller. "The thing that hurts the most is it being the last game with our four seniors, who have given so much and accomplished a lot this year when not many thought we could do what we did. Our captains, Alec and Blaize, are more than just a couple of guys that played for me, but more like a notch from being sons to me. I love those guys and they've been such good leaders for our younger players to look up to."