COFFEYVILLE, Kan. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team came up just short in a hard-fought battle for the championship of the third annual Coffeyville Resources JUCO Elite 8 Tournament in Coffeyville, Kan., Saturday night, Dec. 1.
The Grizzlies, 8-3, fell to the hosting Coffeyville Community College Ravens, ranked 12th in the nation by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), 64-57 to place second in the three-day event. They reached the championship by defeating Quakerdale Promise Academy Prep of New Providence, Iowa, 84-72 in an overtime thriller Friday, Nov. 30, in second-round action.
“This was just a hard-fought, physical game,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said of the championship. “Our guys gave outstanding effort and gave themselves a chance to come back and win a tough one on the road.”
The Grizzlies, who held a 1-point lead at the halftime break, were tied with the Ravens in the game’s final minute, but a 3-point fade away bucket by Coffeyville’s Cameron Craig with 42 seconds left in the contest put the Ravens up 60-57. They added four more points before the final buzzer sounded for the final tally.
“This is the third time we’ve played a team ranked No. 21 or higher on their home floor this season. We’ve been close each time, we just haven’t been able to get over the hump. We have to keep grinding, though,” Walker said.
The Grizzlies’ shot 34.8 percent from the field, hitting 24 of 69 attempts, but they only connected on one of their 14 shots from 3-point range for 7.1 percent. At the line, they were eight of 15 for 53.3 percent. They also grabbed 49 rebounds, 25 off the offensive glass; dished out six assists, coughed up 13 turnovers; blocked seven shots; and recorded nine steals.
The Ravens were 24 of 61 from the field for 39.3 percent, three of 10 from 3-point range for 30 percent, and 13 of 17 at the free throw line for 76.5 percent. They had 39 rebounds, 16 offensive; 13 assists; 15 turnovers; five blocks; and five steals.
“We forced them to make tough shots most of the night, and we crashed the offensive glass pretty well,” Walker said. “We didn’t shoot well enough from the three or the free throw line, though.”
Freshman guard Jon Tshibuy led the Grizzlies in scoring with 14 points. He also had eight rebounds and two assists. Sophomore forward Kris Frazier added 11 points, seven rebounds and five blocks to the stat sheet. Other notable stats came from sophomore forward Keaton Jackson, who had 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Arroyo Edwards, who had three assists.
Montel James led the Ravens with 19 points, followed by Eli Alexander with 12 and Craig 10.
“We can use this game to our advantage and grow from it, but at some point we have to make the plays down the stretch to beat good teams on the road,” Walker said. “When we take time to look at the bigger picture and get past the disappointment of losing the championship game, we see some positive things. We also see some things we need to improve on. The entire process is a grind, especially with a young team.”
The Grizzlies also had to grind it out with Quakerdale to reach the finals. After being down 36-25 at halftime in Friday’s game, the Grizzlies came back in the second half to tie the contest at 68-68 at the end of regulation and outscored the Eagles 16-4 in overtime.
“We struggled immensely in the first half on both ends,” Walker said. “We only had five turnovers in the first half, but we shot so poorly and there were so many long rebounds that those were essentially the same as turnovers, and they were producing transition baskets for Quakerdale.
“Halftime gave us a chance to regroup and understand where the holes in the defense were and what to look for,” he continued. “We came out with more aggression offensively and got more shots at the rim. Our length and our strength really wore them down later in the game. That led to our advantage in points off of turnovers and in second chance points.
“It took everyone we had to win this game, and I’m proud of how each young man stepped up when it was his time,” the coach added. “I also was proud of how our bench gave us a lift and supported the five on the floor.”
For the game, the Grizzlies hit 34 of 75 attempts from the field for 45.3 percent, nine of 32 attempts from 3-point range for 28.1 percent, and seven of 21 shots from the free throw line for 33.3 percent. They also had 43 rebounds, including 13 offensive rebounds, 21 assists, 14 turnovers and nine blocks. Frazier recorded a double-double for the night with 21 points and 15 rebounds. He was followed by Tshibuy with 17 points, Edwards 12 and freshman guard Devaugntah Williams 11.
The Eagles hit 25 of 67 shots from the field for 37.3 percent, five of 18 3-pointers for 27.8 percent and 17 of 25 free throws for 68 percent. They were led in scoring by Dante Bailey with 26 points and Deontae Hawkins with 22 points.
The Grizzlies will play their final home games of the semester Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, in their Grizzly Holiday Classic at the West Plains Civic Center. Other teams competing in the event include Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, Ark.,; God’s Academy, Dallas, Texas; and Three Rivers College, Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Arkansas Baptist and Three Rivers will play at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by the Grizzlies and God’s Academy at 7. Saturday, Three Rivers and God’s Academy will play at 5 p.m., and the Grizzlies and Arkansas Baptist will meet at 7.
“We want to invite everyone to come out to our games this weekend. They should be a lot of fun to watch,” Walker said
Officials with the Grizzly Cheer Team said “Santa Grizz” will be making a special appearance at the tournament this weekend. Area fans who would like to have their photo taken with him may bring their own cameras and meet him in the civic center lobby at 6 p.m. both days. Photos will be taken until the Grizzly game starts each evening.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit the team’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb.htm or call the Grizzly Basketball office at 417-255-7993.