CHANUTE, Kan. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team begins 2012 with a 11-5 record after winning both of its games this past weekend at the Sonic Shootout hosted by Neosho County Community College in Chanute, Kan.
The Grizzlies defeated Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kan., 60-53 Friday, Dec. 30, and the hosting Panthers 74-57 Saturday, Dec. 31.
“This game (against Neosho County) was one of the toughest 13-point wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “It felt like they were on the verge of making a run several times, but our defense really stepped up. We talked before the game about putting an emphasis on going one possession at a time and having more focused energy. We were able to put multiple stops together in a row several times. We did a great job attacking the basket and sharing the ball, especially early on.”
Overall, the Grizzlies shot 23 of 46 from the field for 50 percent, five of 12 from 3-point range for 42 percent and 23 of 25 from the free throw line for 92 percent. They also recorded 16 assists.
Sophomore Gage Wooten led the Grizzlies on the scoreboard with 24 points, hitting nine of 13 shots from the field and all five of his free throws. He also had three rebounds. Sophomore Kevin Nelson had 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He also was perfect from the free throw line, hitting all four attempts. Sophomore Nathane Simniok recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, three of which came off the offensive glass. He, too, hit all six of his free throw attempts.
“Kevin stepped up and attacked the basket really well,” Walker said. “He was a little inconsistent behind the arc, but he and Gage hit back-to-back threes to give us the space to close them the rest of the way out.
“This was a very physical game, to say the least,” the coach added. “I was proud of how we didn’t back down and still played with intelligent intensity.”
Neosho County hit 20 of 57 shots from the field for 35 percent, five of 16 3-pointers for 31 percent and 12 of 17 free throws for 71 percent. Chris Patton led the Panthers with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Thomas Drew had 17 points and four rebounds.
Friday’s game against Johnson County “was a typical first game back” from the holiday break, Walker said. “It was choppy, and it never seemed to get any flow. We were slow to shooters and didn’t execute the defensive scouting report until later in the first half and into the second half. Because of that, we got down by 9 points early, and we didn’t have very many good offensive possessions. We missed some easy shots, too.”
Overall, the Grizzlies shot 22 of 54 from the field for 41 percent, seven of 17 3-pointers for 42 percent and nine of 13 free throws for 69 percent. They also collected 14 offensive rebounds.
Wooten recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, six offensive. Simniok had 12 points and eight rebounds, four offensive. Freshman Miles Gatewood added 11 points and recorded three assists.
“Our offensive rebounding gave us some second-chance opportunities that we were able to capitalize on,” Walker said. “Miles hit some shots early to get us going. That helped us survive a gritty team that executes its offense very well.”
Johnson County shot 18 of 47 from the field for 38 percent, seven of 23 from 3-point range for 30 percent and 10 of 17 from the charity stripe for 58 percent. Justin Leathers led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Christian Hildebrandt had 12 points and two assists.
“Once we got going defensively, their (Johnson County) baskets were hard to come by,” Walker said. “Holding any team to 38 percent shooting is an impressive feat.”
Of the tournament, Walker said, “it was nice to take care of the basketball. As we continue to improve and evolve, we have to keep that at the top of our priority list. We had 14 offensive rebounds the first day and only eight the second day, but we shot a lot better the second day, so there were less opportunities for offensive rebounds.
“Gage and Nate were pretty consistent both games. Each of them had a double-double this weekend, and each of them made big plays to seal our victories,” the coach added. “We had different people step up each day. Miles gave us a lift the first day, and Kevin, Marin Petric and Farbod Farman lifted us the second day.”
The Grizzlies will use this week to prepare for the Grizzly New Year’s Classic Friday and Saturday, Jan. 6 and 7, at the West Plains Civic Center. Friday’s action starts at 5 p.m. with Whiteman Air Force Base of Knob Noster, Mo., facing Iowa Western Community College of Council Bluffs. The Grizzlies will face Carl Albert State College of Poteau, Okla., at 7 p.m. Saturday, Whiteman and Carl Albert will take the court at 5 p.m., and the Grizzlies will face off with Iowa Western’s Reivers at 7 p.m.
“We have two good games coming up this weekend. After we play Carl Albert on Friday, our next four games are treacherous. We will have to cinch in and be ready to compete and play our best,” Walker said.
Prior to the Sonic Shootout, the Grizzlies traveled to Ottumwa, Iowa, for a game against No. 3 Indian Hills Community College on Dec. 20. The Warriors proved too much for the Grizzlies to handle, and they fell 93-69.
“This game was won by their offensive rebounds and lost by our turnovers and poor free throw shooting,” Walker said. “We knew if the game got out of the 60s, it would be hard for us to win. We shot the ball pretty well, and we attacked their press with a lot of success. They did wear us down a little, and that contributed to our poor foul shooting.”
The Grizzlies committed 29 turnovers and only hit 11 of 23 shots from the free throw line for 47.8 percent. From the field, they hit 26 of 54 shots for 48.1 percent and six of 12 3-pointers for 50 percent. They also had 37 rebounds, 11 off the offensive glass.
Freshman Kervin Rameau led the team in scoring with 17 points, followed by Simniok with 16, and Nelson and sophomore Jordan Clennon with 15 apiece.
“We got a lot of easy baskets and even more good looks when they were in their press,” Walker said. “We will have to be stronger after we secure rebounds, and we will have to be more deliberate with our outlet passes. We can get a lot better before we play them the next time.”
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, including complete game statistics, visit the team’s website at http://www.wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb.htm or call the Grizzly Basketball office at 417-255-7993.