WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team will have to play one of their best games of the season tonight, Jan. 17, when they face the No. 2 junior college team in the nation, the Indian Hills Community College Warriors from Ottumwa, Iowa, at the West Plains Civic Center arena.
The Warriors are coming off their 19th straight victory of the season this past weekend, while the Grizzlies (14-5) will enter the contest after squeaking out a 76-71 overtime victory Saturday night, Jan. 14, over Mineral Area College (MAC) of Park Hills, Mo., in their first Region 16 contest of the year. In their first meeting of the season on Dec. 20, the Grizzlies fell to the Warriors 93-69 in Iowa.
Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said he hopes his team plays much better tonight than they did Saturday against the MAC Cardinals. “The best part about that game is that we played poorly and still won. We’ll take that over playing well and losing every time,” he said.
“This was a very typical Mineral Area game for us,” he continued. “Since I have been the head coach here, we’ve had five overtime games, and three of them have been against Mineral Area. It seems that no matter what the records are, we are going to have an ugly game that comes down to the end.”
After taking an early lead, the Grizzlies struggled throughout much of the first half, missing shots, coughing up the ball and failing to hit the offensive boards. The Cardinals went up by as much as 11 points before the Grizzlies began battling back.
“We had a stretch in the first half that was the complete opposite of anything good we have done this year,” Walker said. “Maybe we had too long of a break between this game and the Iowa Western game (on Jan. 7), but that doesn’t excuse how poorly we played.”
Sophomore Gage Wooten finally pulled the Grizzlies within 4 points of the Cardinals when he canned a bucket and the subsequent free throw with 13.7 seconds remaining in the period. The teams went into the halftime break with the Cardinals having a 36-32 advantage.
“At the time out right before halftime (2:55 mark), we were down 10, but we told them that all we needed to do was get the deficit to 5 or less before halftime, and we were able to get some stops and cut it to 4,” Walker explained.
The Grizzlies finally tied the game at 40-40 at the 16:50 mark with a bucket by sophomore Farbod Farman. From there, the teams kept it close until Mineral Area went up 59-55 with 3:29 remaining. Sophomore Nathane Simniok pulled the Grizzlies within 2 with a bucket at 1:57, and two free throws by Wooten with 33.8 seconds remaining sent the game into overtime.
“We did a better job guarding the ball in the second half, and that allowed us to put some stops together,” Walker said.
In overtime, the Grizzlies took control, going up 68-60 with 1:59 remaining, and steady hands at the free throw line allowed the Grizzlies to maintain their lead for the win.
“Going 21 of 25 from the free throw line in the second half and in overtime was a huge advantage for us,” Walker said, adding the Grizzlies were a perfect 11 of 11 in overtime. “In the second half and in overtime, we did a pretty good job on their leading scorers, holding them to a combined 16 points.”
The Grizzlies were led by Wooten with 21 points, sophomore Kevin Nelson with 13, freshman Miles Gatewood 12, and freshman Kervin Rameau 10. Jerome Davis and Darian Hooker led the Cardinals with 24 and 15 points, respectively.
“I want to thank all of those who were in attendance Saturday,” Walker said. “Our crowd was magnificent, and they really stepped up late in the game.”
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.