Bulldogs can't overcome big first half by Kickapoo.

Right now the Rolla High School boys’ basketball team’s loss in Tuesday’s Ozark Conference showdown to Springfield Kickapoo stings.

However, if the Bulldogs end up making a deep run in the Class 4 state playoffs, they may look back at Tuesday’s game as a turning point.

The Bulldogs suffered through the worst two quarters of their season in the first half Tuesday, trailing by as much as 24 points.

However, a huge third quarter put RHS right back in contention. However, the initial first-half hole proved too much to dig out of, as the Kickapoo Chiefs held on for a 76-65 victory in a battle of No. 4 state-ranked teams.

Rolla is ranked No. 4 in Class 4 and Kickapoo No. 4 in Class 5. Both squads are now 22-2 overall. Kickapoo improved to 8-0 and can wrap up the undefeated conference championship Friday at Waynesville. Rolla, 7-1 in the OC, ends the regular and conference season Friday back in Springfield against Glendale (junior varsity 5:30 p.m., varsity follows).

RHS and Kickapoo shared the conference championship last season.
Certainly RHS head coach Mark Miller would have liked the win and the OC title.

However, he says good things can come out of Tuesday’s experience.

“The level of competition you get out of Kickapoo is superior to so many teams you find around the state,” Miller said. “They compete, they’re well-coached, they have multifaceted athletes. That’s a good basketball team. Some of the reasons we weren’t hitting you’ve got to give Kickapoo the credit. They’re quick and long and we may have rushed shots.

“Our comfort zone got bigger (in the second half). We got used to playing against that quickness and length. We didn’t give up and made a great game of it. It’s something that can prepare us big-time in the postseason.”

The game was tied midway through the first period. But then the Chiefs, who started a couple of seniors on their Senior Night who normally come off the bench, went back to their regular starting five and that triggered a 24-3 run to take control.

Kickapoo closed out the first period outscoring Rolla 14-2, and a 10-footer by 5-11 junior guard Cameron Davis gave the Chiefs a 24-9 advantage.

The Chiefs continued to build on their lead to start the second quarter, and a layup by 6-7 junior forward Jared Ridder at the 5:35 mark made it 31-10.

Rolla would close its first-half deficit to 14 points before Kickapoo went on a 11-1 run. And a pair of Davis free throws gave the Chiefs their largest lead of the game, 44-20.

RHS would outscore Kickapoo 7-2 in the final two minutes of the half to cut its halftime deficit to 46-27.

The two teams swapped baskets the first 3:30 of the second half. Rolla then ended the third quarter with a rush, outscoring the Chiefs 15-0.

Senior forward Sam Marshall, who had eight points during that run, ended the third-period scoring with a driving layup off an assist by senior guard Kobe Wands to trim the Kickapoo edge to 57-50 entering the fourth period.

Rolla would close to within five points when 6-3 senior forward Zach Brown converted a driving layup with 5:35 left to make it 60-55.

However, the Bulldogs would get no closer. In the final 1:57 Kickapoo chocked off any hopes of a RHS comeback by sinking 6-of-8 free throws.

Wands and Marshall each scored 19 points to lead Rolla while 6-4 senior guard Logan Short added 13. The Bulldogs netted 10 three-pointers.

Ridder paced a balanced Chief attack with 18 points while Davis added 17 and 6-0 senior guard Isaac Johnson 16.

Kickapoo won the junior varsity game in a thrilling, 83-77 double-overtime outing.

Rolla led the jayvee game 23-19 after the first period and went into halftime up 41-35. Kickapoo led after three quarters 53-52. Rolla freshman guard Alec Buhr canned a 15-foot jumper with 1:30 left to tie the game at 65. Kickapoo held the ball the last 1:30, working for the final shot. The Chiefs missed a driving layup and Rolla got the ball back with a second left, but couldn’t get a shot off, forcing overtime.

Rolla’s jayvee squad scored the first six points of the first overtime, as a 12-footer in the lane by Buhr with 1:41 left made it 71-65. However, Kickapoo outscored Rolla 7-1 the rest of the period. And a driving layup by Kickapoo’s DonYae McCaskill tied the score with :10 remaining, forcing a second OT.

After Buhr opened the second overtime with a basket, Kickapoo went on a 11-0 run to pull way.

Junior guard Brandon Cunningham scored 18 points - all in the first half - for the Rolla jayvee squad, now 15-5, while Buhr added 15.

Kickapoo 76, Rolla 65
Rolla (22-2, 7-1): Wands 5-5-19, Pritchett 2-1-6, Brown 1-2-4, Short 4-4-13, Marshall 7-1-19, Janke 2-0-4, Totals 21-13-65.
Kickapoo (22-2, 8-0): Thomas 4-1-9, Roberson 1-5-7, Vokolek 2-0-4, Johnson 6-3-16, Davis 5-3-17, Schmitz 1-0-2, Ridder 6-4-18, Fowler 1-1-3, Totals 26-17-76.

Junior Varsity
Kickapoo 83, Rolla 77 (2OT)
Rolla (15-5): Grooms 3-2-8, B. Cunningham 6-2-18, Arthur 1-1-4, Klossner 2-3-8, Buhr 7-0-15, Martin 3-1-8, A. Cunningham 3-0-6, Douglas 3-0-6, Pound 2-0-4, Totals 30-9-77.
Kickapoo: Wallin 5-9-20, J. Auer 3-0-6, McCaskill 9-11-29, Dye 3-4-11, Oetting 1-0-3, Giefer 2-4-9, Forbes 2-0-5, Totals 25-28-83.