Grizzlies hold off late charge by MAC, win in OT

Members of the team gather in a huddle on the court with hands raised together and a finger on one hand making a "1" sign.

West Plains, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team came up with the plays it needed to hold off the Mineral Area College Cardinals Tuesday evening for a 93-92 overtime win at the West Plains Civic Center arena.

The Grizzlies are now 17-8 overall and 3-1 in Region 16 play.

Although it was nice to get the win, Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said the Grizzlies must correct some issues if they expect to make a post-season run.

"When Moberly (Area Community College) made their runs against us last week, they capitalized on turnovers.  This was different. We missed shots, offensive opportunities, then had defensive breakdowns on the other end. If we want to make a post-season run, we can't have those issues, at least not consistently," he stressed.

The Grizzlies, who led the Cardinals 42-26 at halftime, built a 22-point lead in the second half. But defensive miscues and missed shots opened the door for the team from Park Hills to come back and tie the game 82-82 at the end of regulation.

"We have struggled to play with the lead. It has been a problem with our team.," the coach explained. "We controlled three-quearters of the game, then they hit some threes and we had some breakdowns on defense. We've got to get it figured out, or we're going to give up one that we shouldn't."

Missed opportunities

The Grizzlies had their opportunities to halt the Cardinals during their run. But missed layups, tip-ins and shots that didn't drop, along with the defensive breakdowns, gave the Cardinals an easy path to come back, Popp said.

"Give it to Mineral Area, they could have easily folded, but they kept coming, hit some shots and made plays down the stretch," he said.

It was a different story in the first half, when the Grizzlies executed their offense.

"We got a lead and didn't play like we were comfortable, which was great," Popp said. "That was an issue in the past. We have not been able to hold and extend leads. I was pleased with the way we played with the lead throughout the first half and most of the second. Then the momentum shifted."

In overtime, the Grizzlies jumped out first, but missed free throws allowed the Cardinals to stay close.

Free throws secure win

Finally, freshman point guard Dravon Clayborn found the basket from the free throw line and gave the Grizzlies the win. "Dravon missed several, but he also made the biggest ones to seal the victory," Popp noted. Clayborn finished the night with 7 points.

The Grizzlies were led by sophomore guard Eric Lovett with 23 points. Freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun added 17 points. Sophomore forward Burone Edwards and freshman forward Alex Peterson each contributed 14 points. Freshman guard D'Andre Vilmar rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11.

Popp praised the play of Peterson. "Alex played well. He was very aggressive on the glass and finished strong. It was good to see him getting back to the aggressive mentality he had at the first of the year. That is big for us," the coach said.

Face Three Rivers Saturday for Homecoming

The Grizzlies will be tested again Saturday when Three Rivers College of Poplar Bluff comes to West Plains for the annual Grizzly Homecoming Game, sponsored this year by the First Baptist Church.

The Grizzlies already have defeated the Raiders twice this season – once in overtime on Nov. 13 in the civic center and again Jan. 20 in Poplar Bluff. 

In addition to the game, which will tip off at 7 p.m. in the civic center arena, the evening's activities include:

  • the Friends of the Garnett Library's annual chili supper fundraiser beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the civic center's Magnolia Room;
  • the Back in Blue Alumni Bash beginning at 5 p.m. in the civic center exhibit hall;
  • a "meet-and-greet" reception for the 2019 homecoming candidates at 6 p.m. in the exhibit hall;
  • the Grizzly Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Grizzly Basketball standout David Augustine (1993-1995) at 6:45 p.m. in the arena;
  • and the crowning of the 2019 Grizzly Homecoming King and Queen at halftime.

All of the activities should create a great atmosphere for the game, Popp said.

"It just brings more energy. It's traditionally our biggest crowd of the year. It's a fun environment, and I think it helps our focus," he said.

For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, call 417-255-7991.

For complete statistics of the Grizzlies' games this season, visit the team's NJCAA page.