Rogersville coach Rod Gorman has a schedule set up that will assure his last few steps on the journey to 500 career wins will be tough ones.
And if he keeps running into players in shooting zones like Branson’s Thatch Unruh was in Tuesday night, the last three wins before the milestone might not come for awhile.
Unruh dropped a career-high 35 points to lead host Branson to a 73-58 victory against Rogersville, which hung for three quarters but eventually relented.
“When my guys are setting good screens and giving good passes, those are all things that pertain to me shooting well, so they were doing a great job of getting me open,” Unruh said.
“Drew Russell, Chandler Hall and Isaiah (Daniels) were setting great screens, and Da’Quan (Ervin) was setting great screens and giving me great passes. They’re the guys who should get the credit. I was just knocking down shots.”
Class 4 Rogersville (6-6) is in the midst of a tough month, and could potentially play eight of its nine games in January against teams ranked at one point in the News-Leader’s Top 15. The other is Saturday against Cape Girardeau Central in the Laker Shootout in Camdenton.
Just like in Friday’s upset win against Class 5 Ozark, Rogersville came out firing at Branson, playing what Gorman called some of its best ball of the season.
Despite Unruh scoring 15 points in the second quarter to give him 22 at the half, Rogersville led 39-36 because of its hot shooting. The Wildcats were 13-for-22 (59 percent) from the field in the first half.
“We weren’t really happy with how we contested shots, but give them credit for knocking them down,” Branson coach Brian McTague said. “They’ve got some spurt-ability, and they can run off nine or 12 points pretty quickly, and they did that to us a couple times. But we had enough fight in us to get it back to a close game.”
Ervin, who did not score for Branson (12-5) before halftime, made three game-changing steals in the third quarter that led to his own runouts. His final one in the final minute of the third quarter had the Pirates up 55-52.
In the fourth, Rogersville seemed worn out, as Unruh scored seven points early to get his career high and seal the victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance, but in the fourth quarter, they turned it up a little bit,” Gorman said. “(Justus) Boever is hurt and three guys have the flu. I don’t want to say it, but we looked a little tired in the fourth quarter.”
Unruh shot 11 for 19 (58 percent) from the field, including 5 for 10 from 3-point range in the game. He added an 8-for-11 (73 percent) effort from the free-throw line.
“He stroked the ball in the basket and we just don’t have that great athlete to stop somebody,” Gorman said. “Aaron (Freeman) is the guy, and we didn’t have him on (Unruh) early, and we thought we should have.”
Rogersville scored just four points in the fourth quarter and Branson turned the ball over just three times after halftime.
“It’s fun, with Rogersville coming off a big win against Ozark, you know they’re going to be hungry for another win,” Unruh said. “We were down a little, and coach comes in (at halftime), gets onto us and gets us motivated to play defense like crazy.
“Our defense really got us going, and that’s what helped us pull away.”
Gorman’s freshman son, Marcus, shared team-high honors with Boever, scoring 14 apiece.
Both teams play Saturday in the Laker Shootout, with Branson playing Vianney at 2 p.m. Rogersville plays Cape Central at 5, and the Wildcats also play Friday at Webb City.