By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Nixa, Mo. – For three quarters, it looked like the Rogersville Wildcats had an easy path to the Class 4 quarterfinals. In the fourth quarter, Webb City changed the narrative.
Trailing 55-27 late in the third, the Cardinals used a 19-0 run to get back in it but couldn’t finish the comeback, falling 63-52 at Nixa High School on Tuesday night.
“Hats off to them,” Rogersville coach John Schaefer said. “We don’t give up that many points. They just bullied us. They took it from us, did what they wanted, and we missed a ton of free throws.”
Rogersville’s Luke Vandersnick led all scorers with 27 points and added 10 rebounds. Ryker Strong had 13 points before exiting in the fourth quarter with an ankle sprain. Webb City got 21 points from Alex Gaskill.
“He’s why we’re here, we know that,” Schaefer said of Vandersnick. “We’ve played around him all year. We knew that in this game, with that type of pressure, Luke’s guard skills make him a tough matchup. We tried to utilize that and keep attacking.”
Rogersville jumped on Webb City early, leading 16-2 out of the gate and 38-16 at halftime. They stretched the lead to as many as 28 points in the third before the Cardinals started their comeback. They forced 16 turnovers for the game, with 12 coming in the first half.
“We tried to play tough with them,” Vandersnick said. “We knew they’re all football players, they’re just going to play physical with us. If we could use our basketball IQ to get layups here and there, that would give us our lead and we could coast from there. Obviously, that didn’t work too well in the end.”
The Wildcats struggled from the free throw line, making 17 of 29 attempts. Vandersnick went just 9 of 18 from the stripe, including 2 of 7 in the fourth quarter alone.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I think it’s just fatigue throughout the game. Hopefully I can make them later this year.”
Rogersville will now face Sullivan at 1 p.m. in the quarterfinals on Saturday, March 9 at Waynesville High School. Sullivan beat Warrensburg 58-46 in the sectionals on Tuesday night.
“It’s really exciting, especially in my senior year, getting back to where we were last year,” Vandersnick said. “It’s another chance to get to the final four, and that’s really what we’re looking for.”
Last year, the Wildcats lost to eventual state champion Grandview 81-46 in the quarterfinals. They’re looking for a better outcome on Saturday.
“We’ve had a great two years with these kids,” Schaefer said. “We’ve got another shot to get (to the final four), and that’s all you’re trying to do at the end of the year is survive. Hopefully we get to survive one more time and see what happens.”
Rogersville 63, Webb City 52
Rogersville: Vandersnick 27, Strong 13, Blevins 11, Gipson 7, Linehan 4, Lowe 1
Webb City: Gaskill 21, Kabala 8, Garrard 7, Rogers 6, Smith 5, Clinton 3, Howard 2