WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team will be the No. 1 seed in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 16 Championship Tournament March 1 and 2 at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
The Grizzlies, 21-9 overall and 6-2 in region play, solidified their top seed with a 68-62 victory Saturday night, Feb. 23, over Moberly Area Community College, Moberly, Mo., at the West Plains Civic Center. Their win, coupled with State Fair Community College’s 73-74 loss to Mineral Area College Saturday night in Park Hills, Mo., gave the Grizzlies sole possession of the top seed. The State Fair Roadrunners, Sedalia, Mo., had been tied with the Grizzlies for first place going into Saturday’s games.
The Roadrunners, 20-9 overall, are now 5-3 in the region and seeded third behind Mineral Area’s Cardinals, who finished the regular season with a 23-7 overall record and a 5-3 region record. The Cardinals received the higher seed because they had a better winning percentage this season against Division I opponents than the Roadrunners, according to information posted on the Region 16 website, http://associations.missouristate.edu/Region16Basketball/.
The region tournament will begin Tuesday, Feb. 26, with the play-in game featuring fourth seeded Moberly (22-8 overall, 4-4 in Region 16) hosting fifth seeded Three Rivers College of Poplar Bluff (15-14 overall, 0-8 in Region 16). The winner of that contest will play the Grizzlies in the 6 p.m. semifinal game Friday, March 1, at Hillsboro. The Cardinals and Roadrunners will meet in the 8 p.m. semifinal contest Friday. The championship will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2.
Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said Saturday was a “good night to be part of the Grizzly program. We honored our Adopt-A-Grizzly host parents, and we were able to honor sophomore Keaton Jackson with a win in his final home game.”
The Grizzlies controlled the first half of the game, going into the break with a 30-19 lead. But the Greyhounds came back with a vengeance to start the second half with a scoring spurt. That, along with defensive struggles by the Grizzlies, almost cost Missouri State-West Plains the game.
“In the first half, we controlled the pace of the game, but in the second half, we played more at their pace. Even so, it was a lot slower than they wanted to play,” Walker said. “Our defensive focus and concentration lapsed a little to start the second half. On top of that, we did a very poor job on the defensive glass, especially in the second half, and it almost cost us. We also talked a lot about how Moberly can score in spurts, and they proved it at the start of the second half.”
Statistics show the Grizzlies hit 19 of their 49 shots from the field for 38.8 percent, four of their 16 shots from 3-point range for 25 percent, and 26 of their 39 free throws for 66.7 percent. They also collected 35 rebounds, eight assists, eight blocks and four steals and only committed nine turnovers.
“For the most part, we took good care of the basketball,” Walker said. “Any time a team has less than 10 turnovers against Moberly, it has taken good care of the ball.”
Leading scorers for the Grizzlies were freshman guards Devaugntah Williams with 16 points, Jon Tshibuy with 15, Arroyo Edwards 13 and Desmond Buerge 10. Williams and Jackson led the team in rebounds with seven each, Jackson had seven of the team’s eight blocks, and freshman guard Isiah Rogers had three assists.
The Greyhounds hit 23 of their 57 attempts from the field for 40.4 percent, four of their 11 3-point attempts for 36.4 percent and 12 of their 21 free throws for 57.1 percent. They also recorded 34 rebounds, three assists, one block and three steals while committing 12 turnovers. Leading scorers were Trent Washington with 17 points, Mike Anderson 12 points and Brennan Hughes 11 points.
“This is a good team, and they will be ready to play us again if they get the chance,” Walker warned. “As for the postseason, there is so much parity in our region. Every team is dangerous, and it will take our best effort to even get to the finals. If we’re fortunate enough to do that, we’ll have to play a team that beat us this year.
“All that being said, I’m proud of all that our mostly freshman team has accomplished so far,” he added. “I’m glad we were able to thank Keaton for his two years with a win and a regular season championship. Now it’s time for us to dig even deeper and find a higher level of focus and a higher level of concentration for each game we play.”
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.