(Coffeyville) – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team will go into the Grizzly Holiday Classic this weekend with a 9-5 record after posting a 1-2 record at the Coffeyville Resources Juco Elite 8 Tournament Dec. 5-7 hosted by Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kan.
On Thursday, the Grizzlies fell to Pratt (Kan.) Community College 69-52, on Friday they lost to Quakerdale Prep, New Providence, Iowa, 86-76, and on Saturday, they defeated Cowley County Community College, Arkansas City, Kan., 95-92.
“All in all, this was a rough week,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “This was a good tournament. The two teams that came into the weekend ranked, Dodge City (Kan.) Community College and Moberly Area Community College, Moberly, Mo., left with 1-2 records. Quakerdale went 2-1 in the tournament for the second year in a row. There just were no bad teams. We found ourselves a little bit on the last day and fought through almost every kind of adversity we could.”
This included losing two players to injury during the contest. Freshman guard Jameel Moore was poked in the eye, and freshman forward Lukasz Bonarek was elbowed above the eye. Both ended up at the hospital before the game was over, Walker said.
“This was a physical game. Jameel was shooting really well from the field until he got poked in the eye,” the coach said, pointing out he had hit three of four 3-pointers before the injury.
In addition, the Grizzlies found themselves in foul trouble. Sophomore guard Arroyo Edwards fouled out, and freshman forward Justin Jamison, redshirt freshman forward Ed Seay, Jr., and freshman guard Craig Eubanks each ended the game with four fouls.
“We needed to do a better job of rebounding on the defensive end and keeping the ball out of the paint in this game, but part of the reason we struggled with that was due to our foul trouble. We couldn’t afford to lose any more players,” Walker said.
“This was the most important game of the tournament for us,” Walker added. “There is a huge difference in 1-2 and 0-3 on the weekend. We handled everything they threw at us. They are normally a zone team, and they played 90 percent man-to-man.”
Offensively, the Grizzlies were led on the scoreboard by sophomore guard Devaugntah Williams with 26 points, followed by Jamison with 18, Edwards with 16 and freshman guard Jeremiah Jackson with 10. Eubanks led the team in assists with five. Jamison led the team in rebounds with 10, giving him a double-double for the game.
“It took all of us to win this game,” Walker said. “Craig stepped up and ran the floor for us and did a great job. Justin Jamison was very good inside, and we used him pretty well. We took pretty good shots and executed down the stretch. We absorbed their run and made one of our own to end the game. Devaugntah’s shot to end the game was just a good player making a good play.”
Cowley’s top scorers were Earl Bryant with 34 points, NaQuavious King with 33 and Kaleb Ratliff with 10.
Defensive struggles cost the Grizzlies a second win over Quakerdale. “We did a terrible job defending the drive in this game,” Walker said. “That wasn’t an issue when we played them a week before, and it turned out to be the difference in this game. We were far less aggressive this game in attacking the rim. That played a part, as well.”
The Grizzlies held a 49-36 lead at halftime, but they failed to stop Quakerdale’s charge in the second half. Leading scorers for the Grizzlies were Williams with 16 points and Seay with 15. Seay recorded a double-double with his team-leading 10 rebounds. Quakerdale was led by Chris Galbreath, Jr., with 26 points, Kaharri Carter 14 and Thomas Wilder 11.
“We have another chance at Quakerdale Friday, and we better be ready,” Walker warned.
Against Pratt, the Grizzlies had built a substantial lead in the first half, only to see Pratt whittle it down to 4 points, 36-32, at the break. “We got to where we were settling for jumpers and forcing some tough shots instead of attacking the rim,” Walker said. “That allowed them to get some easy baskets, and they beat us because of it. Defensively, we were poor in almost every facet.”
Jamison led the Grizzlies in scoring with 14 points, followed by Williams with 12 and Edwards with 10. Pratt was led by Deshun Roberts with 17 and Kevin Allen and Kaion Seales each with 14.
The Grizzly Holiday Classic is set for Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, in the Joe Paul Evans Arena at the West Plains Civic Center. The Grizzlies will play Quakerdale Prep at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 and New Mexico Junior College of Hobbs at 7 p.m. Dec. 14. Three Rivers College, Poplar Bluff, also will be competing in the event.
The tournament is being sponsored by CenturyLink, and everyone is asked to bring canned food items for the First Baptist Church’s food bank as part of the Grizzlies’ community service project for the evening.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball team, including complete statistics from the games, visit wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb/.