Grizzlies take 11-4 record into winter break

The 2018-19 Grizzly Basketball team is standing by row in the West Plains Civic Center arena.
The 2018-19 Grizzly Basketball team at Missouri State University-West Plains includes, front row from left, Eric Lovett, Eric Stafford, Ben Gory, Dravon Clayborn, Jodhe Campbell, D’Andre Vilmar, Darius Carter. Second row: Kristian Andrievski, Da’Vantre Vitor, Assistant Coach Ken Moses, Head Coach Chris Popp, Montel Stewart, Evan White, Kobe Hollomon. Third row: Sam Wallin, Niekie Thomas, Dontell Brown, Henri Langton, Sardaar Calhoun, Alex Peterson, Burone Edwards and Houston Johnson. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

Memphis, Tenn. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team entered its annual winter break with an 11-4 record following Friday night's 82-79 win over Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis. 

"It was a good win," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "Southwest Tennessee is playing well right now. They hadn't lost since we beat them at home Nov. 24. It's a hard place to go play."

The Grizzlies jumped out on the Saluqis early and led through most of the game. At halftime, the Grizzlies were up 48-39, and they maintained an 8- to 12-point lead for most of the second half.

With about three minutes remaining, however, a string a bad turnovers by the Grizzlies and a few quick baskets by the Saluqis let the host team take a brief lead for the only lead change of the night.

But the Grizzlies battled back, regained the lead and held on for the win.

"There was a two-minute stretch where we weren't very good, and they put together a run, but we recovered and made the plays we needed to in the end," Popp said.

"One thing about this team, other than the overtime loss to (No. 6) Trinity Valley, we have found ways to win our close games. That is a great trait to possess," the coach added.

Individual efforts

Freshman forward Alex Peterson had his best outing as a Grizzly scoring 22 points.

"Alex got things going early on with a couple of finishes around the rim," Popp said. "Dravon (Clayborn) did a great job finding him. That got him started, he hit a couple of jumpers and just kept going."

Sophomore guard Eric Lovett led the Grizzlies in scoring with 25 points. Freshman guard/forward Sardaar Calhoun was the only other Grizzly to score in double figures with 11 points.

Sophomore forward Burone Edwards was battling illness, but still played well during key stretches, finishing with 9 points. "The kid's a warrior," Popp praised.

The coach said he is happy where his team stands going into the break. "I feel like we're getting consistently better, especially on the defensive side," he said.

"It's been something of a roller coaster, but we finished it well. The last three weeks have been good for us. I just hope we don't lose momentum during the break. We will need to be even better with the schedule ahead of us when we return," he added.

Five games in eight days

The Grizzlies will have their hands full when they return to host the Hirsch Feed and Farm Supply New Year's Classic Jan. 4 and 5 at the West Plains Civic Center.

They will face the No. 18 Indian Hills Community College Warriors from Ottumwa, Iowa, at 7 p.m. Jan. 4 and the No. 3 Coffeyville Community College Red Ravens from Kansas at 5 p.m. Jan. 5.

After road games at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kansas, Jan. 8 and Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa Jan. 10, the Grizzlies will open the Region 16 season at home Jan. 12 against Mineral Area College of Park Hills.

"We will play five games in eight days when we get back," Popp said, pointing out it will be a tough stretch to open the second half of the season.

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.