'Well-rounded' team effort leads to another region win for Grizzlies

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)

West Plains, Mo. – A "well-rounded" team effort led the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team to its third win over a Region 16 opponent this season.

The Grizzlies (15-7) defeated the State Fair Community College Roadrunners from Sedalia 81-74 Wednesday evening at the West Plains Civic Center.

"It was a good region win," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "State Fair is big and athletic. They have a talented group, and they've got the pieces to be a good team. They're going to be dangerous at their place."

The Grizzlies seemed to be hitting on all cylinders early in the game and jumped out to a 15-6 lead. But the Roadrunners raced back and knotted the score at 37-37 by halftime.

"Everything was working well. Then we hit a stretch where shots didn't fall and we got overly aggressive defensively, giving up some easy baskets. That allowed them to get back into the game."

The Grizzlies got back on track in the second half and maintained a comfortable lead throughout the remaining 20-minute period.

"We never could extend the lead to where we could put them away. That's something we have struggled with all year. We have a tendency to let teams hang around," Popp said.

Clayborn excels

Even so, the coach said he was pleased with the overall effort put forth by the Grizzlies, especially freshman point guard Dravon Clayborn.

The 6-foot, 1-inch product from Chicago, Illinois, turned in a double-double performance with 21 points and 12 assists. He also added five rebounds.

"Dravon played one of his best games of the season," Popp said. "He played like a true point guard, managed the team, moved the ball, pushed our pace and looked to attack at the right times.

"It wasn't about the points," the coach added. "A lot of those were from the free throw line late as they were trying to come back. He was clutch there. As Dravon gets better, we get better."

Clayborn was nearly perfect from the charity stripe, hitting 10 of 11 attempts.

Freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun added 19 points to the scoreboard for the Grizzlies, and sophomore forward Burone Edwards contributed 13. Sophomore guard Eric Lovett rounded out the Grizzlies' double-digit scorers with 11 points.

Popp also pointed out the play of freshman forward Alex Peterson. Although he only recorded 5 points, he also grabbed five crucial rebounds for the team.

"Alex played well off the bench. He defended well against State Fair. His five rebounds were tough rebounds that we needed," Popp said.

The Grizzlies will host Faith Preparatory Academy from West Memphis, Arkansas, at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, then will go on the road for their fourth Region 16 contest of the season. They will face Moberly Area Community College (17-5 overall, 3-0 region) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, in Moberly.

"They play at Three Rivers this weekend. If they complete the sweep there, this will be a battle of the region's two undefeated teams," Popp said. "We've not won there during my tenure. It's going to be a tough battle."