By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
MARSHFIELD — The Logan-Rogersville Wildcats (20-8) used a smothering defense and precision passing and shooting en route to their nail-biting 51-48 win over Bolivar for the Class 4 District 11 championship Friday at Marshfield High School.
Bolivar led early, 10-7, at the end of the opening quarter: their lone lead of the night.
Enter the Wildcats, who not only exhibited a balanced attack but used a 21-7 second-quarter surge to create the needed separation.
Rogersville senior Cade Blevins was named the Class 4 District 11 Player of the Year and finished with 14 points.
Blevins said while he didn’t set out this season to be named the district’s top dog, it serves as icing on the cake: a perfect complement to the title.
Of course, there’s much more work to be done, as the Wildcats face the 16-9 Webb City Cardinals at next week’s Class 4 sectionals at Nixa High School.
“I am just here trying to win. I am just trying to help my team. I want to go as far as we possibly can,” said Blevins, whose interior presence was a thorn in Bolivar’s side all night long.
Blevins converted three straight from the line to commence the second quarter, which set the tone for his teammates.
The third quarter paralleled a prize fight, with both teams going toe-to-toe, as the Liberators tried to match point-by-point, while attempting to gain stops on the defensive end.
But, the large Rogersville interior frames made it a tough chore, as the starting five stand 6’1”, 6’2”, 6’4”, 6’3”, and 6’4”.
The Liberators pulled to within one point, 49-48, in the waning seconds of the fourth, but Rogersville sophomore guard J.J. O’Neal knocked down both from the charity stripe to close the game.
“This is just amazing,” said Blevins, grinning from ear to ear.
Rebounding — both offensively and defensively — was key, as the Liberators were caught watching while Blevins and company snared down ball after ball.
“Yeah, I was shocked,” Blevins said of the rebounding mismatch. “They have guys who play hard. They usually attack the glass really hard and get the ball. Whether they were getting the ball or not, I was going to try and out-jump them and get the ball. I wanted it more than they did. I just took advantage of it.”
Offensively, ball movement and getting the defense on its heels illuminated the game plan.
Added Blevins: “We just needed to move the ball and get it inside. Our inside game has gotten better.”
One reason for the improved play in the paint has been the resurgence of 6’5” senior Andrew Sell, who sustained a shoulder injury during the fall football campaign, and did not make his debut until January.
“He has helped us a lot inside. Attacking the basket just helped us against this team,” said Blevins.
For head coach John Schaefer, the game lived up to the billing.
“I am still out of breath. That last couple of minutes, just kind of shell-shocked and a lot of crazy things happened,” he said. “That is districts. That is March.”
Kanon Gipson of Rogersville led all scoring with his 17-point performance, including nine from downtown.
Other Wildcats scorers included: Blevins (14); Linehan (7).
Kyle Pock led the Liberators with 16 points. Hunter Berry added 13 points. Bolivar finished the season with an overall record of 20-6.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our players and particularly our seniors. It is hard to see any season conclude, but there is no question in my mind this team’s impact exceeds an outcome of a game,” Bolivar coach Robby Hoegh said. “Their character stood tall as it has all year long. What a team.”
The Wildcats meet Webb City at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, for the Class 4 sectionals at Nixa.