West Plains, Mo. – For the third time this season, the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team played an overtime game.
For the second time this season, the Grizzlies won.
Tuesday evening, the Grizzlies defeated Sunrise Christian Academy from Bel Aire, Kansas, 94-90 at the West Plains Civic Center arena.
"I'm pleased with the win, but more so with the way we played," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "Even though we gave up 90 points, it was in overtime against a highly-talented team. It was our best defensive effort, as far as team defense goes."
The Grizzlies knew the game would not be easy. The Buffaloes boast a roster that includes three high major signees, as well as other NCAA division I prospects.
"They have the most high-end talent that we'll see," Popp said. "We won't see another team with that number of high major recruits."
The talent the Grizzlies faced showed on the scoreboard as the game stayed close throughout.
"They got up on us early, but we were able to chip away at it. Neither team was up by more than 5 to 8 points in the second half," Popp said.
With just a little over four minutes to go in regulation, the Grizzlies were down by 7, but as they had throughout the game, they chipped away at the lead and knotted the score at the end of the second half to send it to overtime.
The Grizzlies jumped out early in the five-minute extra period and never looked back to finish another overtime win.
"I'm proud of our guys. They fought back and made winning plays on big possessions," Popp said. "That was our third overtime game of the year, and we're 2-1. I think that says a lot about our guys."
Individual players stand out
Popp dished out praise to several individual Grizzlies. Sophomore guard Eric Lovett scored 34 points, a career high. Sophomore forward Burone Edwards overcame a first-half injury to score 17 points in the second half and 18 points total.
"Burone came up big for us. Even though he got hurt in the first half, he came back and took over the game in stretches," Popp said.
Freshman forward Alex Peterson "played his best game of the year and scored 18 points," the coach added.
Freshman guard D'Andre Vilmar took the court in place of an injured Sardaar Calhoun and made the most of the opportunity by scoring 12 points. "Having D'Andre on the floor really gave us a lift defensively and on the boards," Popp pointed out.
Freshman point guard Dravon Clayborn also played well. "He only had four points, but it was his best performance as our point guard. He had to defend a point guard who's going to Creighton University, and he did a great job on him. Most importantly, he directed our team. He is growing as a player and point guard," Popp said.
Grizzly Toy Toss Saturday
The Grizzlies' final home game of the fall semester is Saturday against Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa. Tip off is 7:30 p.m. at the West Plains Civic Center.
Saturday's game also serves as the backdrop for the annual Grizzly Toy Toss.
In its third year, the event gives fans the opportunity to bring a new or gently used soft toy to the game to toss onto the court when the Grizzlies score their first points.
Toys collected from the toss will be given to the local Toys for Tots campaign sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserve. Those who bring a toy will receive free admission to the game.
"We're excited to partner with the Marine Corps Reserves to support its Toys for Tots campaign, and we appreciate West Plains R-7 Schools joining in with their collection contest," Popp said. "We'd also like to thank everyone at Holiday Inn Express for serving as sponsor for this special night.
The Grizzlies will finish the fall semester of action on the road at Southwest Tennessee Community College Dec. 14.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit www.msuwpgrizzlies.com or call 417-255-7991.
For complete statistics of the Grizzlies' games this season, visit http://www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.