By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. – For the first time since 2006, the Rogersville Wildcats will play for a Blue & Gold title.
The six-seed Wildcats shot 60 percent from the field and got offense from some unexpected places in a 52-46 win over two-seed Willard in the Blue Division semifinals on Friday night at JQH Arena.
“We’re tickled to death to get back (in the championship),” Rogersville coach John Schaefer said. “Our kids have really played hard the last three days and put a lot of effort into what they’re doing. We’ve tried to some of the fix some of the things we’re not good at along the way.”
Cade Blevins led Rogersville with 19 points and sophomore Kanon Gipson added 12. Luke Vandersnick, the team’s leading scorer on the season, was held to eight points and eight rebounds.
“Luke had a low night,” Schaefer said. “They keyed on him, and that’s going to happen. We didn’t try to force feed him. We told everyone else this was their opportunity to score the basketball because he’s taking all the pressure for you.”
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Blevins and Gipson were ready for the moment. Blevins made 6-of-10 shots and scored eight straight points for Rogersville in the fourth quarter to help them gain separation. Gipson, who usually plays JV, made four straight 3s in the first half, giving the Wildcats an offensive boost.
“Kanon can really, really shoot the basketball,” Schaefer said. “Every day in practice, he torches our varsity on defense and they get mad, then we put him in the game and he can’t make one. He hasn’t had much experience, and that’s what he’s getting right now. That was a huge game for him to come out and start making those shots he knows he can make.”
Rogersville built a 14-9 lead after one quarter and led 29-27 by halftime. They made 10-of-15 shots in the first half, including 7-of-10 3-point attempts.
Defensively, they contained Willard’s Daniel Abreu, holding him to 15 points through the first three quarters. He finished with 24 points after going for 34 and 38 in the first two games of the tournament. Abreu will need 26 points on Saturday to tie the tournament mark set by Aurora’s Jasen Fronabarger in 1994.
“He’s really good and tough and makes a lot of baskets,” Schaefer said. “We tried to contain and get on Mo Grayer and Abreu and make the other guys beat us in spots.”
Grayer added 12 points for the Tigers.
Rogersville will now face top-seed Parkview in the Blue Division championship on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
“Coach (Landon) Cornish was one of my assistant coaches when I was at Hillcrest,” Schaefer said. “He does a good job with his kids. They’re athletic, strong, and physical. It will be a tough matchup.”
Rogersville 52, Willard 46
Rogersville: Blevins 19, Gipson 12, Strong 11, Vandersnick 8, Miller 2
Willard: Abreu 24, Grayer 12, Bushnell 4, Hauck 3, Oedewaldt 3