By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Not bad for a No. 6 seed.
The Logan-Rogersville Wildcats are Blue and Gold Champions for the first time in 15 years after a 57-53 overtime win over Parkview on Saturday night at JQH Arena.
Wildcats senior Ryker Strong scored a team-high 17. Teammate Luke Vandersnick added 13 points and keyed a late-overtime surge to give the Wildcats the Blue Division crown.
“This is something I’ve never experienced before, so this is great,” Vandersnick said. “Especially since it’s my senior year. This is one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in my basketball career. It’s just amazing.”
It’s Rogersville’s first Blue and Gold title since 2003. The Wildcats were also making their first finals appearance in a Blue and Gold Tournament since 2006.
“They’re over the moon,” Rogersville coach John Schaefer said about his players after exiting a jubilant Wildcats locker room.
Both player and coach said Rogersville had extra motivation as a No. 6 seed.
“I think we had a point to prove,” Vandersnick said.
Added Schaefer, referencing Rogersville’s 2-2 start that included losses to Ozark and Republic: “We felt (a No. 6 seed) might’ve been a little low, but we put ourselves in that spot.”
Trailing 53-50 with 40 seconds left in overtime, Vandersnick’s dunk brought the Wildcats within one point. Parkview then committed a turnover on the ensuing in-bound play.
On its in-bound play, Rogersville found Vandersnick for a layup plus the foul. His three-point play gave the Wildcats the lead for good, 55-53.
After beating Mountain Grove by 20 in the opening round, the Wildcats won their next three games in the Blue and Gold by an average margin of 5.6 points.
Schaefer, who had Parkview head coach Landon Cornish on his staff when he was at the helm at Hillcrest, said he and the Wildcats have grown comfortable with crunch-time situations.
“I’m getting older now,” Schaefer said. “Used to be, I’d be more stressed. I was actually trying to enjoy the moment some. As coaches, we’re both stressed to death until the buzzer goes off.”
Rogersville shot 50 percent from the field (22-for-44 overall) but committed 16 turnovers. The Wildcats held Parkview to 20-for-57 shooting, including 6-for-21 on 3-point attempts.
“Defense is what we hang our hat on,” Schaefer said. “We probably spend more time working on defense than anything. Kids don’t like it sometimes because kids like to score, they don’t like to work and play defense. These guys buy in everyday and it’s gotten us to where we are: Blue and Gold champs.”
The Wildcats went up by six in the third quarter before a Parkview run gave the Vikings the lead (39-35) heading into the fourth quarter. Rogersville made only nine of 17 free throw attempts.
“We had to pull our heads back out, go back to work and grind a little bit,” Vandersnick said. “They were pressuring us a lot, but if we handled it and made our free throws, we were going to win.”
Rogersville sophomore Kanon Gipson’s 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in regulation put the Wildcats ahead 48-46. After empty possessions by both teams, Parkview’s Latre Morrison delivered a two-handed dunk to tie the game at 48.
Rogersville missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation.
Nakai Johnson scored 17 to lead Parkview. The Vikings (9-4 overall) return to action January 7 at Kickapoo.
Rogersville (8-3 overall) travels to Nixa on January 4.
“There’s no breaks,” Schaefer said. “That’s southwest Missouri and basketball in this area.”
Rogersville 57, Parkview 53
Rogersville 15 11 9 13 9 — 57
Parkview 13 13 13 9 5 — 53
Rogersville – Ryker Strong 17, Luke Vandersnick 13, Josh Linehan 11, Cade Blevins 8, Kanon Gipson 6, Addy Miller 2
Parkview – Nakai Johnson 17, Dontae Taylor 14, Latre Morrison 6, Jon Franklin 6, Anthony Green 5, Trevon Brazile 3, Jevin Huddleston 2