Poplar Bluff, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team held off a late second-half charge to pick up their second win of the season over Region 16 arch rival Three Rivers College.
The Grizzlies (14-7) defeated the Raiders (8-12) 89-82 Sunday afternoon at Poplar Bluff in a game that was delayed 24 hours due to a snowstorm.
The win ups the Grizzlies' region record to 2-0 and drops the Raiders' region record to 2-3.
"It was another good road win," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "We didn't start well, but after the first few minutes, we played a solid game up to a point late in the second when they made their run."
After leading 46-36 at halftime, the Grizzlies built a 21-point lead in the second half. But the Raiders battled back and cut the lead to single digits late in the game.
Having been in close game situations before this season, the Grizzlies didn't panic and held off the late charge to take the contest.
"We didn't fall apart by any means, but we relaxed a little bit and let them pull close. It's human nature to do that a little bit," Popp said.
"We had a little less urgency to close out, a little less urgency on the boards, and a little less urgency in transition. But our guys made the plays to get it done in the end," the coach added.
Grueling schedule helped in win
Popp credits the Grizzlies' grueling schedule against some of the nation's top junior college teams for the win against the Raiders.
"We talk about the benefits of our schedule. We've had close games, and we've come through more times than not. We're seeing it pay off now. I like our guys in a close game," Popp said.
The Grizzlies also found a way to shut down Three Rivers' Tristan Jarrett, the second leading scorer in the nation in NJCAA play.
Jarrett, who's been averaging 28.7 points per game and scored 39 points in their first game against the Grizzlies, only scored 11 Sunday.
"Several guys guarded him at different times as we switched screens and such, but D'Andre Vilmar really has to get a lot of the credit for it. He did a phenomenal job on Jarrett," Popp said. "He took the majority of the load on him, and he didn't give Tristan much room to breathe."
Popp also praised the play of freshman forward Alex Peterson, who turned in one of his best performances of late with 14 points and 5 rebounds. "That was the most aggressive Alex has played in a while. It was good to see," the coach said.
"Eric didn't play many minutes, but D'Andre, Alex and Dravon stepped up to help fill that void," Popp said.
The coach also noted the play of sophomore forward Burone Edwards, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
State Fair up next
Next up for the Grizzlies is Region 16 rival State Fair Community College. The Roadrunners (9-10 overall, 0-2 in region) from Sedalia will come to the West Plains Civic Center for a 7 p.m. contest Wednesday, Jan. 23.
"They're a talented team and are well coached," Popp said. "We watched them at the Indian Hills Classic in December. They played Northwest Florida State College – one of the best teams I've seen this year – close. I feel they're a lot better than their record."
Popp also reminded that it's not too late to enter a team in the 16th annual Grizzly Athletics Trivia Night event, set for Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the civic center. Proceeds from the event support the athletics program. For more information, visit www.msuwpgrizzlies.com/general/Trivia_Night_Sign_Up.
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 www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.