Colin Ruffin knows his strengths and weaknesses and plays accordingly.
“Obviously, I’m not the most athletic kid on the court,” the Nixa point guard said. “So, I try to use my brain more than my athletic ability.”
Ruffin also knows right from wrong and when he’s in the wrong, he’ll own his mistakes.
The manner in which Ruffin responded to two turnovers in the fourth quarter and an ensuing scolding from coach Jay Osborne was pivotal in the Eagles’ 55-45 triumph over Rogersville on Friday.
“He had gotten careless with the ball, so I called timeout to chew him,” Osborne said. “Your point guard can’t have turnovers like that in the fourth quarter and he had two of them.”
“I definitely feel those turnovers were unnecessary, that’s on me,” Ruffin said. “The criticism coach gave me was well-deserved. I shouldn’t be turning the ball over in the fourth quarter as a point guard.”
Ruffin went on to finish off a team-high 18-point scoring effort and turned in the defensive play of the night.
With Rogersville trailing 47-44 and 1:05 to play, Ruffin’s counterpart, Wildcats point guard Kanon Gipson, drove to the hoop. Ruffin positioned himself in the right place at the right time, as he often does, and drew a charge.
As an added bonus, it was Gipson’s fifth foul. He topped Rogersville with 19 points.
“I really liked that, especially coming off those two turnovers and getting him out because he’s their best player,” Ruffin said.
“We’ve been begging kids to draw charges and that was a great charge,” Osborne said.
Rogersville, which was minus quarantined coach John Schafer, impressing mightily by holding Nixa (9-1) to 45 points through the first 30-plus minutes. But the Wildcats essentially chose not to play defense down the stretch. Trailing 45-44, with 1:15 to play, they couldn’t put the Eagles on the free-throw line quick enough, rushing toward whoever had the ball to purposely foul them.
The strategy proved ill-fated. Nixa closed things out with a 10-1 run that saw the Eagles make 8-of-9 free throws. Ruffin made four free throws and T.J. Sorgenfrei and Kaleb Wofford both made two.
Nixa was 16-of-18 overall shooting freebies.
“I love it,” Ruffin said of being sent to the charity stripe. “It’s easy points. They’re free, just like it says in their name.”
“With no shot clock, you’ve got to do something,” Osborne said of Rogersville’s strategy. “We’ve got good shooters. I like them at the line. It’s a free shot.”
Rogersville looked to be on its way to repeated trips to the free-throw line when Nixa put the Wildcats in the bonus with :43 remaining in the third quarter. The Eagles had one foul in the first half, but 12 in the second half.
Alas, the Nixa fouls didn’t prove costly and finally became less frequent. Rogersville was just a modest 5-of-8 at the foul line.
“The game was called very tightly,” Osborne said. “We tell the kids all the time you’ve got to adjust to the officiating.”
Over the past three seasons, Rogersville has won three of five games versus Nixa. This was the first matchup in which the Eagles reached 50 points. They previously were held to 41, 42, 49 and 48 points by the Wildcats.
“Rogersville likes low-scoring, ugly games,” Osborne said. “It’s one game on our schedule in which we know it’s going to be ugly. That’s what you get when you play them. They have a good 3-2 matchup defense. What they do they do well.
“We didn’t flow very well offensively,” he added. “It was difficult to score. Our timing was off and we were sluggish at times. But we overcame it. We found a way to win.”
Nixa 55, Rogersville 45
ROGERSVILLE (45) — O’Neal 5 1-2 13, Gipson 6 3-3 19, Sutherland 4 1-3 10, Bergmann 2 0-0 4. Totals 17 5-8 45.
NIXA (55) — Ruffin 6 4-4 18, Combs 1 2-4 4, Sorgenfrei 1 0-0 2, Wofford 1 4-4 7, Nelson 5 2-2 12, Jones 3 0-0 6, Berry 2 2-2 6. Totals 18 16-18 55.
Rogersville 10 7 15 13 - 45
Nixa 10 12 14 19 - 55
3-point goals - Gipson 4, Ruffin 2, Wofford, O’Neal, Sutherland.