Grizzlies enter last week of regular season with 19-9 record

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 enters the last week of regular season competition with a 19-9 record.

            The Grizzlies defeated the St. Louis Community College Archers 81-64 Monday night at the West Plains Civic Center in a Missouri Community College Athletic Conference (MCCAC) game.

            "Overall, I was pleased with our play last night," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said. "There's more work to do if we're going to win in the post season, but I saw progress in the areas we've been stressing."

            With a couple of early 3-point buckets by freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun, the Grizzlies jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half.

            But the scrappy Archers battled back to tie the game midway through the period. The Grizzlies answered with another scoring spurt that put them up 42-30 at the break.

            "We closed out with our hands down, and they made us pay for it in the first half," Popp said.

            In the second half, the Grizzlies continued building their lead, going up by as much as 20 points. But once again, the Archers battled back to narrow the lead to 10.

            The Grizzlies turned up the defensive pressure to halt the run and held on to a 14-point victory.

            "Defensively, I was really happy with what I saw last night," Popp said. "St. Louis is a good team. They're just simply undersized. We were able to take advantage, control the paint and hold them under 65 points for only the third time all season."

            Leading scorers for the Grizzlies were Calhoun with 17 points, sophomore guard Eric Lovett with 15 points and sophomore forward Burone Edwards with 14 points.

State Fair game

            On Feb. 13, the Grizzlies fell to the State Fair Community College Roadrunners 88-74 in Sedalia in a key Region 16 contest.

            "It was important game because a win would have kept us in a race for the first seed," Popp said. "They're a better team than their record, talented at all positions with size and length. Their hole has been that they don't shoot it well, but they did that night. We didn't play our best, and they played very well."

            The Roadrunners hit 55 percent of their shots from the field and 42.9 percent of their attempts from 3-point range.

            The Grizzlies, meanwhile, were 41.2 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from 3-point range.

            "As disappointed as I am with the loss, it's one we were able to use moving forward," Popp said. "If we're patient offensively, we are very hard to guard. We have a tendency to force things at times. There also were some things exposed defensively in our zone that have now been addressed."

            Leading scorers for the Grizzlies in the contest were Calhoun with 20 points, Lovett with 14 points, and Edwards with 13 points.

            Calhoun added 10 rebounds to his stat line, giving him a double-double for the evening.

Upcoming games

            The Grizzlies' final two games of the regular season are this week against region opponents. Wednesday, they will travel to Park Hills to face Mineral Area College, and Saturday, they will host Moberly Area Community College in the civic center in the regular season finale.

            Tip-off for both games is 7 p.m.

            "Mineral Area will be tough at their place. They mix things up defensively, are very structured offensively and shoot it well," Popp said.

            "We'll try to avenge our loss to Moberly Saturday," he added.

            "We're to the point where all that really matters is getting ready for the post-season," he explained. "I just want to see our guys compete and get better in these last two games. If they do that, you hope the result will be wins.

            "As long as our group stays bought in and is working to get better, we give ourselves a chance to make a run," Popp said.

            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.