By Matt Turer / Matt Turer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
ROGERSVILLE, Mo. – Luke Vandersnick stood at the free-throw line four times in the final minute, breathing calmly as the entire arena held its breath.
His first two gave Logan-Rogersville the lead for good. His second two secured it.
On the other end, an opposite and painful scenario played out as West Plains couldn’t convert on four free throw attempts during the final 70 seconds.
Vandersnick scored seven key fourth quarter points, Ryker Strong led all scorers with 18 and the Rogersville Wildcats held on for a heart-pounding 49-43 win over the West Plains Zizzers in the Class 4 District 11 championship on Saturday.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” Rogersville head coach John Schaefer said. “They persevered late and dug down to make some shots and get some stops.
“Obviously free throws were huge. Possessions were huge. Their rebounds were huge. Defensive stops were huge. One of their better players gets four looks and comes up empty, and we make all our free throws late.”
After trailing for the entire first half and by as many as eight points, Warren gave the Zizzers their first lead of the game at 31-30 with 6:25 left in the third.
The top-seeded Wildcats fell behind five on a Jake Swope bucket with just under four minutes left in the game. Swope let out a yell that seemed to signal the official switch of momentum, but the Wildcats battled back.
By the 1:57 mark it was tied 39-39. Warren had a chance to give the Zizzers the lead again, but his missed free throws were followed by Vandersnick’s first two late makes, and Rogersville never looked back.
“We’ve been in a lot of tough games,” Schaefer said. “We don’t blow people out very often, and we’ve had to make a lot of tough free throws in the fourth quarter to win games. It’s just getting in that mode where you’re focused on what your job is.”
Sophomore Taylor Harrison led West Plains with 17 points. It was the final game for Zizzers seniors Swope, Warren and Clay Butler.
In the previous meeting, Rogersville beat West Plains 57-37 in a vastly different game than what fans witnessed Saturday.
“The difference is it’s district time,” Schaefer said. “Kids know this is the last game if they lose, so you’re going to get everybody’s best effort.”
Rogersville will face Webb City in the Class 4 state sectionals round on March 5 at 6 pm in Nixa.
WPHS |5|10|12|16| — |43|
LRHS |8|12|8|21| — |49|
West Plains- Taylor Harrison 17, Jake Swope 10, Clay Butler 10, Garrett Warren 7
Rogersville- Ryker Strong 18, Luke Vandersnick 12, Cade Blevins 11, Kanon Gipson 8