West Plains, Mo. – The 2018-19 season came to an end Saturday for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team.
The Grizzlies fell to the Moberly Area Community College Greyhounds 98-82 in the NJCAA Region 16 Championship game at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
The loss leaves the Grizzlies' overall season record at 20-12.
"It's a disappointing end. We had high expectations and a talented group. From where we started to where we ended up as a team, we came a long way," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Chris Popp said.
"This season has been quite a journey. We have been through a lot. I'm really proud of my guys," the coach added. "There were a lot of points in the season when things could have gone south, and it didn't. They're a great group of young men."
The Grizzlies showed great competitiveness during Saturday's championship. Despite going down 8-0 early, they battled back to take a 32-30 lead late in the first half.
A short scoring burst by the Greyhounds, however, erased the advantage and put Moberly up by 4 points, 38-34, going into the break.
"They burst right out of the gate, but we responded pretty quickly. My guys fought back," Popp said.
"Moberly beats teams in spurts, with stretches where they ride momentum," he explained. "We kept their runs to a minimum. But they made two that got us. The first was a short run at the end of the first half to go up by 4. There was a 6-point swing in the last two minutes."
In the second half, the Grizzlies and Greyhounds battled back and forth until the Greyhounds went on another scoring spurt that sealed the Grizzlies' fate.
"They made a push and extended the lead from 3 to 12 points," Popp said. "We battled and kept it within striking distance, but we never could put together a run ourselves."
It also didn't help that the Grizzlies gave up 19 offensive rebounds to the Greyhounds in the game.
"We needed to rebound better. They beat us on the boards badly," he said. "We were giving a really good team a lot of extra possessions. It's going to be difficult to win when you do that."
Overall, though, Popp said he was pleased with the way his team played. "Some things didn't go our way. Some shots didn't fall, and they have to in these kinds of games," he explained.
He praised the play of several players, including freshman point guard Dravon Clayborn, freshman guard Sardaar Calhoun, sophomore guards Eric Lovett and Niekie Thomas, and sophomore forward Burone Edwards.
"A lot of guys stepped up and played well. Dravon was our leading scorer with 20 points. He's come a long way. Sardaar had 18 points and eight offensive rebounds," Popp said.
"Eric had 17 points. He didn't shoot it well, but he competed. He hit a couple of big shots when we were trying to make a push at the end," the coach added.
"Kie had one of his best efforts of the year with 8 points and six assists, and Burone played through injury again but still had 8 points, six rebounds and four assists," Popp said.
The coach also praised the Grizzly fans who made the trek to Jefferson City to cheer on the team. "We appreciate the crowd support. It's been great all season," he said.
Grizzly fans have a lot to look forward to next season, Popp said.
"We have a great group coming back. We just have to add a few pieces," he said. "And the guys moving on, they have great futures and will be successful wherever they go."
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit www.msuwpgrizzlies.com or call 417-255-7991.
For complete statistics of the Grizzlies' games this season, visit www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div1/teams/MissouriStateUniversityWestPlains.