Outside of Brandon Emmert and Conley Garrison, most of Bolivar’s current varsity rotation has gotten a lesson in patience over the last two seasons.
Patience, as in sitting on the bench behind varsity stalwarts like Johnny Scott, Case Jones and Bryce Krueger.
Those names have graduated and if Bolivar’s early season success is any indication, its new-look supporting cast – featuring names like Jack Pitts, Kyler Murphy, Corey Spindler, Hunter Jones and Hayden Lewright – is ready to make the most of some long-awaited varsity playing time.
The Liberators jumped all over Hillcrest from the start, racing out to an early 18-2 lead and leading by double digits nearly the rest of the way amid a 74-58 home victory Tuesday night.
“I’m happy for those other seniors who have sat behind two 25-plus win teams and played JV as juniors and sophomores,” said Bolivar coach Robby Hoegh. “Now, they have a chance to play varsity. Everyone matters whether you’re on the floor or not in our program but at the same time, it’s rewarding when you get to come out here and make those plays and do those things. It’s nice to see them have fun.”
Brandon Emmert scored 27 and Conley Garrison added 24 points for the Liberators (4-0 overall), who also earned a boost for future district seeding purposes with the win over fellow Class 4 District 9 member Hillcrest.
The Hornets (1-3 overall) got 28 points, including three dunks, from sophomore Ty Freeman.
Bolivar scored 18 points in roughly five minutes to start the game, behind three baskets underneath from Emmert and triples by Garrison, Pitts, Murphy and Connor Sechler.
Yes, that Connor Sechler – the Missouri State baseball commit who is also a three-year starter at quarterback for the football team. He’s playing basketball for the first time since his freshman season when he was part of a JV team that Hoegh dubbed, “The Super Team” for its dominance.
Sechler made three treys on the night and also provides a passing boost when on the floor. Hoegh said it was Sechler’s idea to return to basketball.
“I never recruit a kid,” Hoegh said. “I’ve been doing this too long to know – the grind of the season, it’s never going to be worth it.
“I love it when our kids play multiple sports. I played college sports, I liked my college experience, but there is nothing like playing for your community and playing with your childhood friends.”
Trailing by 18 to start the fourth quarter, the Hornets scored six straight to get within 54-42. Bolivar retook control by scoring eight of the game’s next 10 points, including an alley-oop dunk from Emmert to Pitts after the Liberators broke Hillcrest’s press.
The Liberators – who were without starting sophomore guard Ian Jones (illness) – made 18 of 26 free throw attempts, while Bolivar was 9-for-12 at the charity stripe.
Bolivar also claimed the Battle at the Border championship at Branson High School last weekend, beating Union (68-33), Branson (63-47) and Lake Hamilton (Ark.) (74-50). The Liberators made 15 3-pointers in the win over Union.
Bolivar travels to Aurora this Friday. Hillcrest returns to action Tuesday, Dec. 13 at Willard.
Bolivar 74, Hillcrest 58
Hillcrest 8 17 11 22 — 58
Bolivar 20 19 15 20 — 74
Hillcrest – Ty Freeman 28, Jayden Sydnor 8, Shahn Clark 8, Malik Starks 2, Cole Pryor 2, Hezekiah Duke 2, Sam Terry 2, Tim Washington 2, Brenden Weaver 2, Brant Schaffitzel 2
Bolivar – Brandon Emmert 27, Conley Garrison 24, Connor Sechler 9, Jack Pitts 7, Kyler Murphy 5, Corey Spindler 2