Rolla and Ozark were teams in similar positions coming into the Republic Tournament. Both schools have had a lot of success lately, but both are replacing key pieces from successful 2017-18 squads.
Each team proved the ability to quickly reload by advancing to the Republic Tournament title game. Rolla would come out with a 60-49 win to claim the title and remain unbeaten.
“To say we expected to win it, I would have to say no,” Rolla head coach Mark Miller said. “This is one of the best tournaments in the state. There is so much high-quality competition that a good team can leave here 0 for 3.”
The game was disjointed throughout with the teams combining to commit 47 total fouls. Ozark committed nine fouls in the first five minutes of the game.
The foul total inspired two different reactions from the coaches.
“The free throw line is flow for us,” Miller said. “We hit well from the free throw line. That’s why we attack and draw those fouls because we can go to the free throw line and convert. I think that just helps us when a game is being called tight like that.”
“The whole start of that game was pretty sluggish for us. We caught a lot of bad breaks. Things just didn’t go our way. It was pretty frustrating,” Ozark head coach Mark Schweitzer said.
Rolla raced out to a 12-6 lead after one quarter and a 22-15 lead at the break.
Some of that lead can be attributed to a shrewd lineup decision by Miller. He gave sophomore Trey Brown his first start, and he did not disappoint.
“The reason we started him was because he is a good perimeter threat against their match-up zone,” Miller said. “We were trying to attack and find him for the kick. Trey stepped up and hit big shots like we know he is capable of.”
Brown knocked down three first-half three-pointers on his way to a game-high 20 points.
Rolla would essentially put the game away in the third quarter by outscoring the Tigers 13-3 to take a 35-20 lead into the fourth quarter on the way to a 60-49 win.
Alonzo Riwa would lead Ozark in scoring with 15 points. Rolla was buoyed by knocking down 24 of 30 free throws in the game. The Tigers finished 15-for-22 from the free throw line.
Rolla will look to use this tournament championship as a springboard into the rest of the season.
“To walk away with a championship, it doesn’t get any better than this. Especially this tournament with such high-quality competition,” Miller said. “It has given us a start and we just have to keep building and working to get better.”