REPUBLIC — Park Hill South all but spotted Ozark and Hudson Roberts eight points Wednesday, helping the Tigers go on to win their season-opener by eight, 66-58, at the Republic Tournament.
With Roberts receiving open looks, he opened Ozark’s scoring by swishing back-to-back 3-pointers and making two free throws after being fouled on another 3-point attempt.
All this in the first two minutes.
“I know I can pick it up at whatever time of the game, so I'm not worried about getting off to too hot of a start,” Roberts said. “But I definitely have to take advantage when I'm not scouted too well and try to do as much as possible.”
Roberts went on to finish 3-of-4 on his 3-pointers and net 25 points. With Park Hill South picking up that he’s a pretty good shot from 3-point land, the Panthers overplayed him on the perimeter. Roberts countered by showing off his mid-range game and driving all the way to the bucket and drawing fouls.
He was 10-of-13 shooting free throws.
“After I hit the first two 3s, they were trying to take away my 3-pointer,” Roberts said. “It was tougher (to shoot a 3) after I hit my first couple. That naturally happens. I think I handled it pretty well. I try to take what they’re giving me. If they're not going to give me the 3-pointer, I'm confident in scoring any other way on the court.”
“Hudson showed he can do way more than just shoot 3s,” coach Mark Schweitzer said. “I thought he mixed it up well. He went to the hole and got to the free-throw line. He's a scorer and can score at all three levels. He's doing exactly what we talked to him about in terms of his improvement. You've got to mix it up. They're going to try to take away something, which means you have to go to something else.
“It's going to be a strong year for him,” Schweitzer added. “The confidence is there for him. It's a matter of him going out and performing and I don't expect him not to.”
Another option offensively for Ozark that worked relatively well was forward Jace Whatley feeding the ball to center Cohen George. With the big men on opposite blocks, Whatley several times drew the attention of defenders and promptly found George for an easy layup.
George finished with 10 points.
“We've been preaching to use our size,” Schweitzer said. “When you have good size, you've got to use it. We did an OK job of looking for the post, but can still do better.”
Ozark’s best option offensively was at the free-throw line. The Tigers were’t very good at the charity stripe, making only 24-of-40. But they outscored Park Hill South by eight on free throws.
Again, the final margin of victory was eight.
Ryan Engel made 7-of-8 free throws to score 11 points.
“It was really physical and we knew it was going to be that way,” Schweitzer said. “The game is called differently in Kansas City. It's called a little tighter down here. Their kids are used to playing a different style.
“If we hit our free throws, we would have won by double digits,” he added. “The kids have got to get in the gym and shoot free throws. They're called free throws, they are free. It's the easiest shot in basketball. I'm going to challenge them to a free-throw contest. I bet I could beat every one of them right now.”
Ozark advances to semifinal action to meet Springdale, Arkansas, at 7 tonight. The Bulldogs whipped Hillcrest 74-48 Wednesday.
Springdale was a state runner-up last season and features junior Isaiah Sealy. The 6-foot-7 point guard has offers from Arkansas, Mizzou, Texas, and Oklahoma.