Bulldogs' balance makes the difference against the Lakers

Camdenton had a tall task Thursday night.

Not only were the Lakers facing a Rolla team that came into the annual Ozark Conference battle on an 18-game win streak, but a significant size disadvantage as well with a Bulldog team that features five players 5-foot-11 or taller while Camdenton's tallest player stands around 5-foot-9. The Lakers brought plenty of pressure defensively and had the visitors rattled a few times, but the Bulldogs were too consistent and it led to an 87-76 win to push the winning streak to 19 games.

"They have a lot of different ammunition out there on the court," Camdenton coach Staci Caffey said of a Rolla team that had four players who scored in double figures and nearly six overall. "The girls had goals they needed to accomplish within that game and we did a lot of them, but not all of them. Rolla is a powerhouse team and they've got size and quickness. I was proud of our girls with how they played tonight."

Camdenton did not have much room for error and it showed on the scoreboard as Rolla took the early lead and never relinquished it the rest of the night.

The Bulldogs built a 9-point lead in the first quarter and any time the Lakers closed the gap, a Bulldog run would ensue. A 10-2 run and a 9-0 Rolla run in the second quarter both came after Camdenton closed the margin within three points. Trailing by as many as 16 in the third frame, the Lakers were never able to shrink the deficit by more than seven points the rest of the way.

"We fouled there at the end and had a chance a couple of times to get some shots in and our defense got a lot of looks. Tonight, we missed some easy shots at huge points of the game," Caffey noted. "That was kind of the key to me. We worked hard, we were rebounding and not letting the size affect us too much."

Camdenton was able to knock down some jump shots and finished the night with six 3-pointers, but the missed opportunities hurt and Caffey said the defense gave up a few too many buckets on the back side of the full-court press as well. The Lakers actually won the turnover battle by eight, forcing 22 Bulldog miscues while Camdenton had 14, but it was not quite enough to get over the hump. Rolla also made 25 of its 34 free throw attempts to finish the night at 74 percent from the charity stripe.

"They are just relentless. They try to wear you down mentally and there were times when we did wear down and turned it over two or three times in a row that led to a run for them" Rolla coach Luke Floyd said of the Laker defense. "I give great credit to Camdenton for just never quitting. They made us play 32 minutes, but then our girls did a great job of adjusting and answering every run they had for us."

Camdenton senior Natalie Basham led the Lakers with 29 points, junior Shelby Kurtz added 15, freshman Elle Turner knocked down 11 and senior Darby Roam put up 10 respectively.

"I know Natalie went into the locker room upset feeling like she could not knock an outside shot down. She was short tonight and tweaked her knee early on in the first quarter trying to push through that," Caffey remarked. "Elle knocked down a couple of 3-pointers and Darby knocked down a couple of 3-pointers so the outside game fell (through the basket) but not as much as we needed it to."

Caffey also noted the efforts of Kurtz and fellow junior Megan Vest as well.

"Megan struggled on the inside tonight putting the ball in the hole but what I love about the girl is her positive demeanor on the court," the coach pointed out. "Boy, she gives 110 percent at all costs and just never gives up. I think she finished with four or five rebounds and kept pushing and digging in there. Shelby was the same way and was playing as hard as she could play with four fouls. She just goes at it and that girl goes 100 miles an hour. I'm glad I have her to coach and not have to coach against her."

Camdenton falls to 14-8 with the loss and 3-4 in conference play. However, Caffey is loving the effort her team is giving and up next is a trip to rival Lebanon on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

"We sat there and just talked about wanting to be that team that is going to compete until the end of the buzzer and I feel like our girls did that tonight," she noted. "They are a fun group to coach and this is a fun group to watch. They get after it and I feel like I get everything I can out of them so it is a fun team to be a part of."