By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — With his 27-point scoring outburst in Rolla’s 67-56 victory over Hillcrest Tuesday evening, it would be all too easy to label Josh Pritchett as a one-man wrecking crew.
It would also be inaccurate.
While the 6-foot-4 senior wing’s length, speed and solid handles presented a matchup nightmare for the Hornets, Rolla’s big road win happened as a result of defense, ball movement and players not only filling their roles, but excelling at them.
What’s more, Pritchett’s scoring outburst could almost be described as quiet based on its effectiveness within head coach Mark Miller’s up-tempo attack.
“It’s certainly not a one-man show with what we’ve got,” Miller said. “Josh Pritchett is not that kind of player, too. He’s very much a team guy, and we’ve got guys that just do what they’re supposed to do and play their roles very well from the top of the lineup all the way to the bottom of the bench.”
Despite the fact both Rolla and Hillcrest thrive in a frantic, high-scoring style of play, the first quarter featured a sluggish start with neither team scoring a basket for nearly three minutes of play.
With Rolla leading 10-7 after one, both teams looked for an offensive spark.
Pritchett was more than up to the task for the Bulldogs, pouring in 12 points in the quarter on a quartet of 3-pointers.
Hillcrest found itself keeping pace thanks to three consecutive baskets from Josh Powell.
Powell, a 5-foot-9 senior, also drew the daunting task of guarding Pritchett in the contest.
“[Powell] is really athletic, and I played football against him for a couple years,” Pritchett said. “He was pretty up into me the whole game, but I feel like, just running through it, I could get open if I needed to. As the game went, I just kept on going.”
As Pritchett got going, so did the rest of the Bulldogs.
While Miller praised Pritchett’s effort, he also was quick to point out the overall team contributions.
“I’m very pleased with Josh’s effort, both offensively and defensively,” Miller said. “But, we had a lot of guys that were doing the right thing together out there as a team, and I was glad we got rewarded with a win.”
At 6-foot-5, senior Nick Janke was also able to exploit a significant size advantage, giving Rolla a big target around the basket. When Hillcrest would rotate to stop drives from Pritchett and junior point guard Blaize Klossner, Janke was able to convert, finishing the game with 10 points.
Coming out of halftime with a 29-22 lead, Rolla’s up-tempo attack sparked an 18-7 run and stretched the lead to 18 points. This time it was Klosser doing most of the damage, scoring 7 of his 13 points during the third-quarter run.
With momentum in its favor and a sizeable lead, Rolla seemed poised to run away with a blowout victory; however, the Hornets mounted a comeback.
Keyed by seniors Tim Washington and Malik Starks, Hillcrest chipped away at the deficit.
While the Hornets managed to cut the lead to 9 points early in the fourth quarter on a pair of Washington free throws, Rolla immediately answered with back-to-back baskets from Klosser and Pritchett to thwart the rally.
A pair of late Pritchett baskets sealed the 67-56 victory for the Bulldogs and allowed Miller to breathe a sigh of relief after the game.
“Offensively, we did some good things; we knocked down some big shots, attacked pretty well and protected the basketball against a real physical, quick team defensively,” Miller said. “We didn’t stop their penetration well at all, so we’re going to work on that. All in all, whenever you can go on the road in the Ozark Conference and come away with a win like that, you’ve got to be satisfied.”
Washington (20), Starks (13) and Powell (11) all finished in double figures for the Hornets.
Up next for Rolla (10-1) is a trip to Jefferson City Helias on Friday, Jan. 12, while Hillcrest (6-8) travels to Marshfield on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Varsity Final: Rolla – 67, Hillcrest – 56
Rolla 10 19 20 18 — 67
Hillcrest 07 13 17 19 — 56
Rolla scoring: Josh Pritchett – 27, Blaize Klossner – 12, Nick Janke – 10, Coby Martin – 7, Alec Buhr – 6, Davie Pound – 3, Aaron Cunningham – 2
Hillcrest scoring: Tim Washington – 20, Malik Starks – 13, Josh Powell – 11, Brenden Weaver – 5, Cole Pryor – 3, Savion Hill – 2, Latterian Jarman – 2
Frosh Final: Rolla – 51, Hillcrest – 42
(Danny Foster – 14 points)
JV Final: Hillcrest – 59, Rolla – 54
(John Wright – 14 points)