INDEPENDENCE, Kan. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team is now 7-4 after defeating the Independence Community College Pirates 73-61 Wednesday night, Dec. 7, in Independence, Kan.
“This was a huge win for our team,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “Independence is a very talented team and they have a lot of nice pieces. They are aggressive on the defensive end, and in the first half, they got us sped up a little. At halftime, we were able to refocus and come to the understanding that we are the better team.”
Walker said the Grizzlies made the right plays at the right times to garner the win. “While our defense wasn’t perfect, we had a stretch where we held them scoreless for six possessions in a row in the second half,” the coach said. “We knew they weren’t great shooters from the outside, so we played off and tried to make them beat us from outside.
“Mostly, I was proud of our poise late in the game,” Walker added. “They tried pressing us, and we handled it and got the shots we wanted. We made plays and made free throws down the stretch.”
Overall, the Grizzlies shot 25 of 53 from the field for 47 percent, four of 15 3-pointers for 27 percent and 19 of 24 free throws for 70 percent. The team also had 12 offensive rebounds. “At halftime, I told them we only had three offensive rebounds, and we responded by getting nine in the second half,” Walker said.
Sophomore Kevin Nelson led the team in scoring with 16 points after hitting five of his six shots from the field, including two 3-pointers, and all four of his free throws. He also had four assists and two turnovers. He was followed by sophomore Marin Petric, who had 15 points, and freshman Kervin Rameau with 12. Both Petric and Rameau also had four rebounds.
“Our three guys in double figures are three who haven’t always been in double figures,” Walker said. “Kevin only missed one shot during the evening, free throws included, and has only had two turnovers in the last three games combined. He also hit a dagger of a three in the second half to get our run started.”
The Pirates shot 23 of 51 from the field for 45 percent and two of 16 3-pointers for 13 percent. At the line, they were 13 of 20 for 65 percent. They also had 10 offensive rebounds. Leading scorers for the Pirates were TraVaughn White and Christian Huffman, 12 points each, and Tony Criswell, a University of Missouri signee, with 10.
The Pirates held a 6-point lead in the first half. “Really, when they built their lead in the first half, we just missed some good shots,” Walker said.
The Grizzlies return home just in time to host the Grizzly Holiday Classic Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9 and 10, at the West Plains Civic Center arena. In addition to the Grizzlies, the two-day event will feature Arkansas Baptist College from Little Rock, Redlands Community College from El Reno, Okla., and Mid-South Community College from West Memphis, Ark.
The action begins at 5 p.m. Friday with Arkansas Baptist facing Redlands. The Grizzlies and Mid-South will tangle at 7 p.m. Saturday, Arkansas Baptist and Mid-South will meet at 5 p.m., followed by the Grizzlies and Redlands at 7 p.m.
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.