LINN, Mo. — The Russellville Indians boys basketball team (1-3) came up just short Dec. 16 in a 47-39 loss to the South Callaway Bulldogs in the first round of the Linn Invitational.
The game was close in the first quarter, as Russellville trailed South Callaway 15-11, but in the second quarter, it looked like South Callaway was starting to pull away as the team entered halftime leading Russellville 30-18. South Callaway found itself in this position after outscoring the Indians 15-7 in the second quarter, thanks in part to eight three-pointers by the Bulldogs in the first half.
The Indians fought hard to cut into the Bulldogs' lead throughout the second half. In the third quarter, a three-point play by Charlie Miller made it a 30-21 game early on. Another three-pointer by Jesse Daniels made it a 33-25 game with around 4:00 left to play in the quarter. South Callaway responded with a three-pointer of its own that made the score 36-25, but the Indians stuck with the Bulldogs and again cut their deficit down to single digits. Near the end of the quarter, another three-pointer by Daniels made it close. It was a six-point game at 36-30, but South Callaway added three more points to their lead and at the end of the quarter the Bulldogs led 39-30..
In the early stages of the fourth quarter, the Indians managed to cut the Bulldogs' lead down to seven points at 39-32 after a basket by Bladen Kremer. South Callaway responded with a 3-0 run to make it a 42-32 game with around 5:30 left on the clock.
The Indians would not go away. A three-point play by Bryce Mehrhoff made it a 44-37 game with just more than 2:00 left before the final whistle. Unfortunately for the Indians, they were not able to cut into the lead any further in the game's final minutes and South Callaway held on for the win.
Indians head coach Greg Koetting said the team did a good job with defensive rebounds in the second half when South Callaway started missing shots, and that it was good to see the team did not quit as it kept cutting into the Bulldogs' lead.
In the first half of the game, the Indians gave up 30 points to their opponents but only forfeited 17 points in the second half. Koetting said the team switched from zone defense to man-to-man defense, which affected the Indians' opponents in the second half.
"We started in a zone (defense) because I wasn't sure how to match up with them," Koetting said. "We didn't close out well on their threes and they made several before we 'woke up.' With a young team, five of the top eight players being sophomores, we tend not to respond well if the opponent comes out 'hot.' We switched to man-to-man, but it didn't seem to affect South Callaway's shooting until the second half."
The effect eventually was pronounced. While the Bulldogs made eight three-pointers in the first half, they only managed two in the second half.
Koetting said the Indians actually shot a better percentage than South Callaway but had a big problem with turnovers.
"Turnovers (were) a big problem, with 19," Koetting said "We shot a better percentage than South Callaway on twos and threes, but they got more shots."
After the loss, Koetting said hopefully the team will learn to value its possessions and to be ready from the start of each of its games.
"Hopefully, that we've got to value every possession so we get as many shots as the opponent," Koetting said. "Along with the need to attack the gaps of a zone defense and to be ready mentally at the beginning of the game."
Daniels led the Indians with 16 points, followed by Mehrhoff and Miller, who each added seven points. Russellville made six three-pointers in the game and went 3-6 from the free throw line.
The Indians' next game is at 5 p.m. Dec. 29 against Belle.