The Tigers struggled to score points in their final two games of the season-opening Republic Invitational, losing to Rogersville Friday night 50-44, then falling to Rolla on Saturday afternoon, 51-48.
On Saturday, the Tigers dug their way out of a hole in the fourth quarter and set up a chance to tie the game on their final possession, but a three-point attempt by freshman Drew McMillin from the corner was blocked as time expired, securing the win for Rolla.
The Saturday game had begun with an offensive show by junior Broc Smith. Smith had 15 points in the first 12 minutes and scored 19 points in the first half. But Rolla’s defense tightened up in the second half, allowing Smith to score just three points after the break.
The teams were tied 29-29 at halftime. Rolla outscored 22-19 in the second half.
Besides Smith’s 25 points, Republic got 10 from McMillin, who made three three-pointers. Dylan Brown, Trent Rackley, and Jaden Duvall each scored three points. Hunter Creek and Tucker Thomas scored two each.
Friday night was another defensive-minded struggle, with Rogersville coming out on top 50-44. The Wildcats held a double-digit lead for much of the game — including a 30-18 lead at halftime. But the Tigers’ defense kept them close enough to have a chance in the fourth quarter.
Republic started the fourth period in a 42-30 hole, but held the Wildcats scoreless until about 2:30 remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they weren’t able to capitalize because of an offensive dry spell of their own.
McMillin started the fourth-quarter scoring with a three-pointer, but the score was stuck at 42-33 for more than 3 1/2 minutes. Smith splashed home another three and McMillin followed with another, cutting the Rogersville lead to 44-39. But that’s as close as the Tigers would get the rest of the night.
McMillin led the Tigers in just his second varsity game, with 13 points. Smith scored 11. Creek added eight, Rackley scored six, Dylan Brown scored three, and Race Looney scored two.
Coach Trevyor Fisher says the offensive struggles are something he expected with such a young team.
“That’s just kind of how our personnel is,” says Fisher. “We’re going to have those spurts throughout the entire year. We just have a lot of young, inexperienced guys. It’s hard for them to put a full game together.”
Defense kept the Tigers close in both losses, but Fisher says there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go. When we’re good, we can stack five and six possessions in a row together of good defense where we don’t make any mistakes. Right now, we may have one or two, then we’ll have a possession or two where we do make mistakes.”
The Tigers finished the tournament with one loss (against Springdale, Ark.) and two losses.
“We had kind of the whole…spectrum of what a season is. We played great on Monday, not very good [Friday], and somewhere in the middle today. That’s kind of how we expect the season to go, expecially at the beginning of the year—a lot of peaks, a lot of valleys. Hopefully we can become more consistent as the season goes on.”