Rogersville held off a second-half comeback to beat Ozark in a 72-68 thriller on Friday night.
The Wildcats got off a hot start in the first quarter, scoring 30 points off seven 3-pointers, including three from freshman Marcus Gorman.
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“We came out on fire and stroked the ball; it got us off to a great start,” said coach Rod Gorman. “Our defense was not as tough as we needed it (to be). We maybe should have had a little more of a lead – we knew Ozark would fight back. But in the end, we were tougher, and that’s why we won.”
The Tigers had no problems scoring in the first-half, despite their leading scorer, Brett Krisik, playing minimal minutes because of an illness. Ozark scored 20 in the first quarter; then turned up the pressure defensively to cut the lead to three, trailing 39-36 at halftime off strong plays from junior Korbin Evans and long three’s from junior Noah Nelson.
The third quarter saw Ozark’s first lead of the game when junior Nick Cookinham hit a three-pointer from the corner to go up 47-46 midway through the third.
Rogersville continued to push the ball behind point guard Gorman, answering Ozark’s runs. By the end of the third quarter, the Wildcats were up 55-53.
In the fourth quarter, it looked as if the Wildcats were going to run away with the game, as senior Corbin Medley dominated inside and outside of the paint on his way to a game-high 24 points.
Ozark went on a 10-2 run after an Evans’ blocked shot led to a 3-pointer from senior Jacob Neidig to go up 68-66 with 2 minutes remaining in the game.
Rogersville tied the game up 68 apiece and with 1:28 remaining, Ozark had a chance to take the lead. The Tigers couldn’t set up an offense, while the Wildcats pressured the ball – keeping it out of Krisik’s hands in the post.
Then with 28 seconds left, Medley stole a pass and was fouled as he headed for the goal. The senior hit two clutch free throws to put Rogersville up 70-68.
Ozark drew up a play for sophomore Heath Carmichael with 17 seconds left, but his 3-point attempt from the left corner bounced off the back of the rim and then went out of bounds off the Tigers – a call that had head coach Steve Hunter and the home crowd upset.
With 1.1 seconds remaining, the Tigers fouled after they couldn’t stop the inbound pass. Two more clutch free throws later, the Wildcats won their sixth game to go to 6-5 on the season.Hunter, still frustrated by a 14-point loss to Webb City Tuesday after leading by as many as 10 in that game, struggled to find an explanation for how his team played against an opponent he felt they should have beaten.
“Same old story – this group just plays at the level of their competition,” said Hunter. “If they don’t think you’re very good, then they’ll just play at that level. They have to have a wake-up call. … Bottom line is: You win the games you’re supposed to win. This was a winnable game.”
Ozark was led by Evans with 21 points, followed by Nelson with 13 and Neidig with 12. For Rogersville, Medley led all with 24, while senior Justus Boever poured in 16 and Gorman contributed 12.
The Tigers, who fall to 7-7 on the season, will get a week off before they head to the Camdenton Tournament next Friday.
Rogersville will travel to Branson Tuesday to play the 9-4 Pirates.