By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
When their star player isn’t scoring, the Bolivar Liberators don’t seem fazed.
In fact, they might be at their best when all-state guard and Division I recruit Kyle Pock gets to play facilitator.
“Kyle knows his role. He never forces anything,” said senior guard Cooper Cribbs, who was one of three Liberators to reach double figures in Wednesday’s Blue and Gold semifinals victory. “He trusts all of us and we trust him. Whenever he’s getting doubled or it’s not his night, he moves the ball to us and we figure something out.”
Bolivar’s length and balanced scoring was too much for undersized Greenwood as the Liberators pulled away to win 70-39 in the Gold Division semifinals at JQH Arena.
Pock, a 6’5″ junior guard, finished with just nine points – all in the second quarter. Teammates Joshua Bowes (15), Cribbs (12), Lukas Gabani (10) and Kaden Griswold (9) provided plenty of scoring support.
“I’ve always said that if someone other than Kyle is leading us in scoring, I bet we probably win pretty well,” said Bolivar coach Robby Hoegh.
Bolivar (10-0 overall) plays 2-seed Ozark at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at JQH Arena in the Gold Division championship game.
Bolivar last won a Blue and Gold championship in 2015.
“We’re trying to win every game. Of course we want to win championships,” Hoegh said. “But we don’t talk about that. We know it, but we talk more about: ‘What the do we want the identity of our team to be? When people watch us, what story do we tell?’ We hope it’s a good story.”
Bolivar played a clean first half against Greenwood – no turnovers – and led 33-22 at halftime.
The Liberators used their size mismatch to dominate the second half, pounding the Blue Jays inside with 6’6” forwards Bowes and Gabani.
“That was the first game (this season) where it felt like our post-ups basically wore the other team out,” Hoegh said. “It just gets old getting ducked in on all the time. Lukas (Gabani) and (Joshua) Bowes were pretty relentless tonight.”
A night after struggling to make any shots in a narrow victory over Central, the Liberators hit 10 3-pointers against Greenwood. Cribbs had four of them.
“I don’t think we as players thought that Central was as good as they really were,” Cribbs said. “Today, it was like, ‘Hey, we know we played bad yesterday. We’re coming out and we need to beat the crap out of the other team today and have no mercy because we want this championship more than anyone else.’ It was a more energetic game for our whole team.”
Sophomore point guard Tanner Jones led Greenwood with 17 points.
Greenwood (9-3 overall), which was seeking its third straight Blue and Gold championship, entered Wednesday’s contest averaging 72 points per game.
“We matchup well with Greenwood,” Hoegh said. “They put five guys out there who can all bomb away, and our length makes it difficult. They made some hard shots in the first half – and they’re capable of that – but I don’t know if any of them were easy shots.”
Greenwood plays Republic at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Gold Division 3rd place game.
Greenwood 70, Greenwood 39
Greenwood 13 9 8 9 — 39
Bolivar 12 21 19 18 — 70
Greenwood (9-3 overall) – Jones 17, Gibbons 9, Pinegar 6, Clark 3, Litherland 3, Diouf 1
Bolivar (10-0 overall) – Bowes 15, Cribbs 12, Gabani 10, Griswold 9, Pock 9, Larimore 7, Ingold 3, Durham 3, Wilson 2