By Denise Tucker
Brandon Emmert inched closer to Bolivar High School’s scoring record and the top-seeded Liberators took one more step toward the Class 4 District 9 finals on Thursday night.
Behind the 30 points of Emmert, 26 of those coming in the first three quarters, the Liberators made quick work of No. 4 Reeds Spring with a 69-37 semifinal victory.
The Liberators, who were ranked No. 5 in the final state rankings and improved to 23-4, were coming off a 54-48 loss to Ozark on Feb. 23 to end the regular season.
“When you have a heartbreaker on the road (with the loss to Ozark), you have to sit and chew on that for a while,” Bolivar coach Robby Hoegh said. “We had kind of an interesting week as far as practice (with starter Connor Sechler out sick). You’re just trying to make it to the game where everybody isn’t mentally exhausted or physically exhausted. You don’t want to over-do it, and you’re just ready for the games to come.”
They left little doubt about the outcome after the first quarter, outscoring Reeds Spring 23-8, and holding the Wolves’ key players to 17 points for the game.
“They’re a tricky team,” Hoegh said of Reeds Spring. “(Joel) Gertson and (Lane) Carroll and (Logen) Plumb are athletic. They’ve got some skills, so we were keying on trying to make sure that those guys weren’t getting anything easy. But (Austin) Bradfield kind of had himself a game (11 points). We let him get inside of us a couple of times and they made some pretty tough 3s, which we can live with.
“Anytime you can hold a team to eight points in a quarter, and then we held them to 15 in that second quarter… In the second half, we really guarded well and rebounded. When you do that and then you find high-percentage shots on the offensive end, it usually ends up with a good result.”
And there wasn’t much Reeds Spring was able to do. Too many missed shots and too many runs by Bolivar were too much for the Wolves to overcome.
“Give credit to Bolivar,” Reeds Spring coach Barry Yocom said. “They played with a lot more effort tonight than we did. It’s disappointing. Our guys just didn’t match their effort, their energy, their intensity.
“But we’ve had a great year, and I don’t want this to diminish that, but at the same time, it’s disappointing that, having such a great year, that we don’t bring those things to the table in that game.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to play harder to give ourselves a chance against a quality opponent.”
Emmert, a University of Central Missouri football signee, is now just 19 points shy of breaking Preston Guiot’s scoring record of 1,941 points. But, Emmert just wants to win, Hoegh says.
“He experiences all kinds of defenses,” Hoegh said. “There was a stretch where I don’t think he scored over double digits because people were putting two or three guys on him, but we were still winning by 20. And, I said, ‘Hey, you doing all right? And, he said, I’m fine, Coach. No problem.’
“He’s a pleasure to coach. I hope every coach gets a chance to coach the kind of character kids that we have here at Bolivar. And that is a testament to their parents and the community itself.”
Bolivar point guard Conley Garrison added 21 points – all in the first three quarters – along with six assists and five rebounds. Hoegh was able to rest Emmert and Garrison in the final quarter, with his Liberators up 60-32.
Bolivar will face No. 2 Hillcrest, a 73-56 winner over Rogersville in the other semifinal. The Liberators split with the Hornets this season, with the last meeting a 68-66 overtime loss in the Bolivar Tournament on Jan. 28.
“We wanted to get the game to where we could get those guys out because whoever we play, it’s going to be a load of a game,” Hoegh said. “With a one-game turnaround, everybody’s gotta be ready to go.”
NO. 1 BOLIVAR BOYS 69, NO. 4 REEDS SPRING 37
Class 4 District 9 semifinal
REEDS SPRING – 8-15-9-5—37
BOLIVAR – 23-20-17-9—69
REEDS SPRING (18-10) – Logen Plumb 6, Lane Carroll 5, Joel Gertsen 6, Troy Froeschle 5, Austin Bradfield 11, Cole Nordin 2, Cole Crutcher 2.
BOLIVAR (23-4) – Brandon Emmert 30, Conley Garrison 21, Ian Jones 5, Corey Spindler 3, Kyler Murphy 3, Mason Payne 2, Jack Pitts 2, Hunter Jones 3.