WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team upped its season record to 13-5 after winning the Grizzly New Year’s Classic tournament this past weekend at the West Plains Civic Center.
The Grizzlies defeated Carl Albert State College, Poteau, Okla., 76-46 Friday night, Jan. 6, and Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs, 84-73 Saturday night, Jan. 7. Grizzly sophomore Kevin Nelson was named tournament MVP, and sophomores Gage Wooten and Nathane Simniok earned all-tournament team honors along with Iowa Western’s Devin Brooks. Cory Buford from Whitman Air Force Base of Knob Noster, Mo., the fourth team in the tournament, also received all-tournament honors.
In the early game Friday, Iowa Western downed Whitman 101-60, and in Saturday’s early contest, Carl Albert defeated Whitman 78-58.
Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said, “It was good to right the wrong that we had on the table from losing to Iowa Western earlier this year; however, we were not pleased with how we played on the defensive end in the first half. We did a lot better in the second half. We were there to challenge almost all of their shots, and we made them hit some tough ones.
“Our offensive execution was decent in the first half, but the fact that we made shots made it look a little better than it really was,” he continued. “At halftime, we discussed that if we continued to let the game stay at the pace it was at, we could win, but if we stepped up and got some stops defensively, our chances of winning increased dramatically. We had to challenge ourselves to do a better job of playing tougher at both ends.”
Walker said Iowa Western’s zone defense didn’t bother the Grizzlies’ offense, and the Grizzlies were able to get most of the shots they wanted against the Reivers’ man-to-man defense. “I was pretty happy with our execution in the second half,” he said. “I thought that in the second half, we were able to control the momentum of the game on the defensive end.”
Wooten led the Grizzlies in scoring in this game with 25 points, followed by Nelson with 22 and Simniok with 17. The Reivers were led by Xavier Munford with 16, Brooks 15, Kelvin Dixon 13 and Alonzo Traylor 10.
Against Carl Albert Friday, Walker said the Grizzlies were a little lifeless in the first half of the game. “We didn’t guard their shooters properly in the first half, so they hit a few from the outside on us,” he explained. “We knew we had to crank up our intensity in order to build some momentum going into the game the following day.”
Simniok led the Grizzlies in scoring against Carl Albert with 14 points, followed by Wooten with 12. Adrian Webber and Jaymere Hayden led Carl Albert with 9 points each.
The Grizzlies will host their first Region 16 game of the year Saturday, Jan. 14, when the Mineral Area College Cardinals from Park Hills, Mo., come to town. The game begins at 7 p.m. at the civic center.
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.