ROSSVILLE – Rossville's boys basketball team isn't loaded with shooting depth and building cohesion and rhythm within the lineup will take time for a team with just two seniors.

However, Tuesday night's 50-43 victory over Silver Lake was a step in the right direction for Rossville coach Brandon McDonnell and the Bulldawgs.

BrandonMcDonnellFirst-year Rossville boys basketball coach Brandon McDonnell an his Bulldawgs opened Mid-East League play with a 50-43 win over rival Silver Lake Tuesday night. [Photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

SaintMildrenSophomore Saint Mildren (10) scored a game-high 17 points in Rossville's 50-43 win over Silver Lake Tuesday night. [Photo by Rex Wolf/TSN]

Rossville and Silver Lake's teams are remarkably similar in the 2022-2023 campaign. Both squads have very few returners to their lineups, bruising defenders and a plethora of guys learning the Xs and Os on the court.

With the similarities, this matchup was uniquely intriguing.

Tuesday night's War on 24 contest at Rossville didn't light up the scoreboard, but it showcased Rossville's gritty and hard-nosed defensive performance.

It took everybody in the "Dawghouse" to slow down a Silver Lake team that was rolling on initial momentum.

The game plan for McDonnell and the Bulldawgs against Silver Lake was simple -- outwork Silver Lake.

"Compete," McDonnell said. "That's the bottom line. It's not an X and O type thing; it's are you going to come out here and compete as hard as you can? Really, that was our first complete game from the tip to the finish of doing a game in its entirety with competing. When you (compete), we're going to be hard to beat, and we're not relying so much on our offensive efforts; it's our defense that really chimed in today.

"A lot of things that aren't kept in stats is what we did today, and that's a reason why we were able to pull some things out today and come out with a victory on War on 24.''

McDonnell was right; the stats weren't utterly relevant in this game. Any statistical category for either team didn't pop off of the page. Instead, the minuscule things needed to be picked up on.

Thriving off of defensive momentum, freezing up Silver Lake's passing lanes, forcing highly-contested shots and stopping the pick-and-roll were aspects of the game that Rossville could control.

Rossville had a 9-8 lead to end the first quarter. It was known early that superb defensive efforts would win the Dawgs the game. Across the board, Kade Perine, Jakoby McDonnell, Saint Mildren, Jack Donovan and Brock Bush set the tone early defensively for Rossville.

Rossville's most significant task was keeping 6-foot-3 Silver Lake senior Troy Heiman away from the paint. Heiman's ability to get buckets with hounding pressure from the mid-range and in the paint has been a collective challenge for all teams. However, despite another tremendous fourth quarter that included 10 points from Heiman, the Dawgs held the Eagles' asset to two points for the first three quarters.

Heiman wound up being the only Eagle with double-digit scoring. No other Silver Lake player had more than seven points.

Although the scoring was sparse for Rossville in a neck-and-neck game for the first three quarters, the Dawgs found a rhythm in the final quarter and were able to put the game away.

In the 17-point fourth quarter, Kameron Badura, Mildren and Bush contributed with 14 of the points.

"It's got to be motivation," McDonnell said. "I think the boys have just thought that they haven't been good enough to play this sport. You know, down here in Rossville, you're known as a football school. We are not trying to change that in its entirety; we love the football team, but basketball can play as well.

"We are trying to use that fire to beat a very good Silver Lake team who's won two games in our league already. So for us, we could've died right off the top knowing that they've won two games. We came out with a win right off the break. We come back; let's keep that same intensity that we left the break with."

Two Rossville players had double-digit scoring. Mildren had a game-high 17 points and Bush had 10.

Next up for Rossville (2-4, 1-0) will be a road test against Mid-East League foe Riley County on Friday night. Silver Lake (2-3, 2-1) will travel to Rock Creek on Friday.


Silver Lake 8 12 10 13 – 43 

Rossville 9 13 11 17 – 50

Silver Lake (2-3, 2-1) – S. Johnson 2 2-4 6, Martin 0 0-0 0, Stithem 2 2-2 7, Vande Velde 0 0-0 0, Heiman 5 2-4 12, Whitehead 2 0-0 5, D. Johnson 1 0-0 2, J. Johnson 2 0-0 5, McDaniel 3 0-1 6. Totals – 17 6-11 43.

Rossville (2-4, 1-0) – McDonnell 1 0-0 3, Perine 0 3-8 3, Mildren 7 3-4 17, Donovan 3 1-3 8, Bush 3 4-9 10, Badura 1 3-5 5, Cunningham 2 0-0 4. Totals – 17 14-29 50.

3-point goals: Rossville 2 (Donovan, McDonnell), Silver Lake 3 (Stithem, J. Johnson, Whitehead). Total fouls – Rossville 12, Silver Lake 21. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.