If you’re going to win games in the state tournament, it might be best to get an early start.
Sullivan (23-6) did just that Tuesday in the Class 4 boys basketball sectional round at Missouri S&T in Rolla. The Eagles jumped out to an early lead with five three-point shots in the first quarter and went on defeat Warrensburg (24-4), 58-46.
The Eagles thus earned the right to advance to the state quarterfinals where they will play at Waynesville High School Saturday at 1 p.m. Standing between Sullivan and a trip to the final weekend of play in Springfield will be Logan-Rogersville (23-5), which eliminated Webb City (16-10), 63-52, in sectional play at Nixa Tuesday.
Sullivan used its hot shooting start against Warrensburg to open up a 15-9 lead at the end of the first period. The Eagles’ defense limited Warrensburg to just 15 points in the first half as Sullivan went into the intermission up by 12, 27-15.
“We got some good shots early and then just did whatever we could the last 8-10 minutes just to hold on,” Sullivan Head Coach Dino McKinney said. “They did a good job doubling and pressuring us at the end and I thought our kids handled it OK. We had 10 turnovers, but it felt like a lot more because everything was toward the end. I’m just proud of the kids and the effort they gave.”
Sullivan continued to have a strong defensive showing, shutting out the Tigers for nearly the first full five minutes of the third quarter, extending the lead to 35-15. Warrensburg then turned to the full-court press to try to get back into the game and finished with seven of the final 10 points in the quarter. At the end of the third period, Sullivan still had the game under control with a 38-22 advantage.
Warrensburg cut the lead to 10 points in the final minute of play, but that was the closest the Tigers could get in the whole second half.
“It was very similar to our game the other night with Rolla,” Coach McKinney said. “We continued that in the first half tonight and boxed out really well. They were desperate toward the end and they were sending everybody glass and they’re stronger than us. They pushed us a little bit and displaced us a little, but we did enough and hung in there and got the stops when we had to.”
Cody McKinney led all scorers in the contest with 23 points.
Landon Hoffman finished with 14 points. Carter Adams netted eight points, Austin Lewis five, Jacob Hatcher three, Austin Frye two, Rohrer two and Cameron Cunningham one.
Rohrer led the Eagles in rebounds (six), assists (three) and steals (three).
Hatcher rebounded four, McKinney three, Lewis two, Frye two, Hoffman one and Austin Orick one.
McKinney turned in two assists, Hoffman one and Frye one.
Adams and McKinney both picked up a steal.
For the Tigers, Luke Landwehr was the driving force on offense with 19 points.
Other Warrensburg scorers included Brooks Baldwin (six points), Elijah Nappe (six), Peyton Long (four), Luke Mackey (four), Ejyah Sheridan (three), Zach Reed (two) and Trevor Key (two).
Landwehr and Reed made six rebounds apiece. Mackey, Sheridan and Nappe each grabbed two rebounds and Long, Key and Cooper Berry all finished with one rebound.
Mackey and Long both contributed two assists. Landwehr, Reed and Nappe made one assist each.
Long, Key, Nappe and Jackson Nimmo all picked up one steal for Warrensburg.
The Eagles spread the ball around on those first five three-point shots to open the game. Hoffman connected on two shots from beyond the arc while McKinney, Lewis and Adams each added one.
“We’ve done that quite a few times this season and when we get Cody and Landon, because they’re by far our best shooters on the team, open and get them hot early, it’s really good,” Lewis said. “We started off really well for the first two quarters.”
Sullivan was able to adapt to the collegiate environment at the Gale Bullman Multipurpose Building early on in the contest.
“Their eyes were big when they came in here and got to dress in a really nice locker room,” Coach McKinney said. “We’ve got great facilities, but thank goodness they let us on the floor as early as they did because our kids got used to it a little bit. A couple of them were hitting shots early, so they didn’t seem too affected by it.”
Lewis said the Eagles turned in one of their best games of the year defensively. It came against a team Sullivan would normally not see play, presenting a challenge to prepare on just a few days’ notice after the end of the district tournament on Friday.
“We just watched a bunch of film and knew exactly what they were going to do,” Rohrer said. “We knew who to let go on and who to stay off of. ...It was pretty difficult, but we managed it.”
While Sullivan limited the Warrensburg offense, the Eagles outside shooting success opened up the playbook more on the other end of the court.
“Our last game, we fell apart a little bit on defense, but tonight we really made them a one-and-done team and played really good defense and really held them,” Lewis said. “They’re a good team and have really good scorers.”
The Eagles will attempt to keep their momentum going Saturday in the quarterfinals. Fellow District 10 champion, the Rolla girls (24-3) will play the Logan-Rogersville girls (22-7) in the other game on-site at Waynesville Saturday.
Sharing the half of the bracket with Sullivan and Logan-Rogersville’s boys will be a couple of Kansas City schools, Grandview (26-2) and Southeast (24-4). The winners of those two games will meet at 1:45 p.m. Friday, March 15, in the state semifinals at JQH Arena in Springfield.