PITTSBURG — It was a strong performance for both Pittsburg High School basketball teams, as the Dragons boys earned a 51-36 victory after the girls walked away with a convincing 58-39 win over Labette County Tuesday.
PHS BOYS HAND GRIZZLIES FIRST SEK LOSS
Much like the the PHS girls, the Dragons boys (8-0, 5-0 SEK) used a strong defensive effort in the first quarter to build a 19-5 advantage over Labette County (4-3, 3-1 SEK), setting the early tone in the win.
“Any time you beat a Brad Smith coached basketball team is a good win for our program,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “We have a lot of respect for Coach Smith and his program, and we knew it was going to be a tough matchup … I was really proud of the way our kids defended for 32 minutes.”
The Purple Dragons, who sit atop the SEK standings, were led by Marque English, who finished with a double-double after scoring a game-high 22 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in the win. He added four assists.
Chase Curtis added 14 points to give PHS a pair of scorers in double figures.
Gavyn Elkamil scored seven points and had four rebounds, while Trent Austin finished with four rebounds, three blocks and two points for PHS.
Javon Reliford scored a team-high 17 points off four 3-pointers in the loss for Labette County.
With the game tied at 5-all, Pittsburg kept the Grizzlies from scoring over the final four minutes of the opening quarter and rattled off the last 14 points.
“We take a lot of pride at the defensive end of the floor,” Roelfs said. “We talked a lot about wanting to come out find a way to slow them down even though we knew it was going to be tough. Our kids rose to the occasion, and that’s something we need to understand moving forward — we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter tonight, but we got to the rim and scored inside. It puts a lot of pressure on our guys defensively, but they stepped up tonight.”
English knocked down a pair at the stripe to kick off the run, and Elkamil knocked down a step-back mid-range jumper to make the score 9-5 with 2:30 left.
English added back-to-back scores inside and Elkamil made two free throws to put Pittsburg up 10, 15-5.
Curtis’ two free throws and an English score off the lob pass from Austin with five seconds left sent PHS into the second period up by 14.
Pittsburg built its lead to 19, 28-9, off an Austin score in transition with two minutes to play, but the Grizzlies closed out the first half on a 7-2 run to cut the PHS’ lead to 30-16.
Reliford highlighted the LCHS’ run with a pair of 3-pointers.
The pace slowed down in the second half, but that didn’t prohibit the Purple Dragons from keeping distance from the Grizzlies.
PHS started the third with an 8-2 run, led by four points from each English and Curtis, to take a 38-19 lead.
Reliford ripped the twine from long range and Russell Tanner connected on a mid-range pull-up jumper to make the score 38-24.
The Grizzlies closed out the third period with the final four points to trail 42-29 with eight minutes to play.
Labette County cut the lead to 10 at the start of the fourth after Reliford knocked down a pull-up 3-pointer to make the score 42-32.
Pittsburg got back-to-back baskets in the paint from English to push the lead back to 14, 46-32, with 4:40 to play in the contest.
Curtis found a cutting English to give PHS six unanswered points for a 48-32 advantage with less than four minutes on the clock.
PHS stretched its lead to 51-32 on a Curtis’ take to the rack with 2:50 left.
LCHS cut the margin to 51-36 with less than two minutes to play, but PHS milked the final two minutes off the clock to limit the Grizzlies’ possessions and preserve the win.
DEFENSE FUELS PHS GIRLS OVER GRIZZLIES
The Purple Dragons (5-4, 4-1 SEK) built a 36-7 lead over the Grizzlies (5-2, 3-1 SEK) thanks to stout defensive play as a team, which held LCHS to three field goals by the intermission. Labette County cut the lead down to 20 in the third period, but it wasn’t enough to keep PHS from earning the win.
“It’s a belief system now,” Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton said. “During the first half of the season, before Christmas, we were still trying to figure out who we were offensively … Over the last two games, we’ve decided to settle down and take good shots, look for the mismatch and take advantage of them.”
Taylor Muff led Pittsburg with 26 points, 15 coming in the first half. She added nine rebounds in the win, one away from a double-double.
Abbie Casper finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while Logan Lord knocked down three triples for nine points and a team-high eight assists.
Daeshia Turner added six rebounds, two points and a steal, with Kaitlyn Kidd adding five rebounds, two steals and an assist in the PHS’ win.
Tristan Gegg scored 19 points to lead the Grizzlies, while Aubrie Sorrell added six and Dana Reliford finished with five in the loss.
Pittsburg’s defensive intensity showed up at tip-off, as the Purple Dragons held Labette County scoreless for the first seven minutes of game action.
In that span, PHS ripped off 15 straight points on offense to take a commanding lead.
Lord kicked off the game with a triple at the top of the key, before Muff made the score 5-0 with a basket in the lane.
Beitzinger drilled a 3-pointer with 6:30 left in the first to push the lead to eight, and Pittsburg went up double digits, 10-0, after Casper grabbed an offensive rebound for a putback score.
Casper scored on a mid-range jumper after a shot fake, and Muff connected on a 3-pointer in the corner off the swing pass from Lord with two minutes left in the opening period to give the Dragons a 15-0 lead.
“Honestly, it all kind of started when Logan hit that 3-pointer to start the game, which drove our defensive effort from there,” Flaton said. “Daeshia did a great job on Gegg in the first half … There was just a lot of things that went into it, but because we were able to respond on the offensive end, it made our defense so much better.”
Gegg scored the Grizzlies’ first basket on a mid-range jumper with 56 seconds to play in the first.
PHS closed out the first period with four points from Kidd to head into the break up 18-2.
The momentum didn’t slow down for PHS heading into the second quarter, with the Purple Dragons scoring the first 14 points to take a commanding 32-2 lead.
Like in the first, Lord started the second quarter by knocking down a 3-ball, this time from the corner.
Lord found Muff on the pick-and-roll the next trip down the floor, and the Purple Dragons got another post score from Muff off the Lord assist to take a 25-2 lead with 4:49 to play in the half.
Muff knocked down a jumper from the free-throw line, then grabbed her own miss for a putback on the next PHS’ possession to put Pittsburg up 29-2.
Beitzinger drilled her second 3-pointer of the first half to give the Dragons a 30-point, 32-2 lead.
Labette County earned its first field goal of the second quarter when Gegg stole the ball near midcourt for a fast-break score with 2:22 to play, but PHS closed out the half with a 36-7 advantage.
The Grizzlies made a run at the lead in the third, outscoring PHS 17-9 to get within 21 of the lead by the start of the fourth.
It wouldn’t be enough, as the Purple Dragons staved off any comeback attempt by keeping LCHS near a 20-point distance over the final eight minutes.
Both PHS teams will be in action next week as they host the Border Classic basketball tournament. Schedules have yet to be released.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.