By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
For the second time this week, the West Plains Zizzers have knocked off a state-ranked team with a 62-54 win over the Rolla Bulldogs Friday night. The win puts West Plains in a tie with Kickapoo for first place in the Ozark Conference standings at 4-1.
“My boys really had a big week,” said West Plains head coach Shane Benson. “We had some really intense ball games in a row, and you never know how that’s going to go, but they just keep stepping up and playing real hard. Right now, they’re playing really good basketball. If they keep playing like that, they’re hard to beat.”
The Bulldogs entered the game undefeated in conference play.
“It was a very physical game,” said Rolla head coach Mark Miller. “We got beaten by a good team; they do things right. They run a really tough 2-3 zone, and they make you earn every shot. And then they’re so big that if you’re not making shots – which we weren’t tonight – then you don’t get many second chances.
I think it all boiled down to, we just couldn’t throw it into the ocean tonight. A lot of times teams just think they were off, but a lot of times defense has something to do with that. My hat’s off to Shane and his bunch. I thought they played a real nice game.”
West Plains jumped out to an early 15-11 lead in the first, propelled by Jake Swope’s 8 points in the quarter and two key Clay Butler buckets; an and one and a shot at the buzzer. Alec Buhr carried 8 of Rolla’s points in the frame, and Muluken Pritchett, 3.
The Bulldogs stepped up their outside game in the second, and Colby Shivers, Blaize Klossner, and Trey Brown each connected from downtown. Solid rebounding helped the Zizzers in this quarter, but turnovers did not; the Bulldogs capitalized on the mistakes and put up five points just before the close of the half to trail by just two points, 28-26.
Rolla quickly tied up the game in the third quarter and briefly took the lead, but the Zizzers outscored them by a bucket to keep the two-point lead.
Both teams failed to score in the first two minutes of the fourth as each team stepped up defense. Taylor Harrison put up the first bucket of the quarter for the Zizzers, followed by a Swope score and foul for three more to stretch the lead to seven. Alex Buhr put up 10 points in the frame, but it didn’t offset the 13 points the Zizzers earned at the charity stripe. West Plains led by as much as 12 in the final minutes and held on for an 8-point win with a quick tempo down the floor.
“They shoot the basketball really well; other than 21 (Alec Buhr), I thought we did a good job finding the shooters and getting their stops,” said Benson. “He played in a position we haven’t seen a lot, and he kind of hurt us in around the high post and stepping out, he got some threes that way.”
“I think there’s only been a game or two that we’ve got outrebounded, and they’ve been losses, and that’s kind of our key. If we can outrebound people, we’ve got a chance to beat them.”
Rolla is now 14-5 and 3-1 in the Ozark Conference. They face conference foes next week, with Parkview on Tuesday and Kickapoo on Friday.
The Zizzers are now 4-1 in the conference and 17-4 on the season. As high scorer Jake Swope noted, they will be focused on their next match-up:
“It was a great team win,” said Jake Swope. “We’ve got to get ready for Lebanon next Tuesday.”
Scoring for West Plains: Jake Swope, 26; Taylor Harrison, 14; Clay Butler, 12; Allen Marcak, 5; Conner Rackley, 3; Garrett Warren, 2.
Scoring for Rolla: Alec Buhr, 27; Blaize Klossner, 8; Trey Brown, 6; Trey Quick, 5; Muluken Pritchett, 5; Colby Shivers, 3.