PITTSBURG — The Purple Dragon boys' basketball team punched its ticket to the championship game of the Border Classic as they handed Atchison a 70-59 loss in the second round Thursday.
Pittsburg (9-0, 5-0 SEK) started fast, building a double-digit advantage over the Redmen by the end of the first quarter thanks to a balanced effort on both ends of the floor. PHS’ advantage grew to more than 20 points by the intermission, and kept that margin until the Redmen closed the third on a 14-1 run to get within 12. Atchison (3-5) got the lead to nine points twice in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the Dragons closed out the win.
“We didn’t finish the way we needed to,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “I really thought Atchison came out in the second half with a lot of fire, and got us back on our heels, switching the momentum.”
Marque English led the Dragons with a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He made six of seven from the free-throw line and had four blocks defensively.
Jerek Butcher finished with 13 points, making four 3-pointers in the game.
Gavyn Elkamil scored 14 points, with Drew Roelfs contributing 11 for PHS in the win.
Chase Curtis had 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds to give Pittsburg five players in double-figure scoring.
Atchison was led by Adam Smith, who finished with 17 points in the loss.
Taye Helms added 12 points for the Redmen.
After a back-and-forth start, Pittsburg outscored Atchison 17-5 over the remaining six minutes of the opening period.
Roelfs kicked off the run with a 3-pointer from the wing, which was followed by an English bucket inside to make the score 10-5.
Jerek Butcher drilled a deep 3-pointer with 5:14 on the clock to give PHS an eight-point lead.
Pittsburg closed out the first with a 3-pointer from Elkamil, two free throws from English and an offensive rebound for a putback score by Curtis to go into the second up 13.
The Redmen cut the lead to six, 24-18, on a layup off the break by Tahj Helms, but the Purple Dragons answered with 13 straight points to take control of the contest.
Elkamil knocked down a triple at the 4:53 mark to start the run, with English getting consecutive scores inside to put PHS up 31-18.
Elkamil pulled up from the elbow for a make, and followed it up with an inside score and the foul to extend the Dragons’ lead to 35-18 with 2:49 left in the half.
Elkamil missed the and-1 attempt, but English grabbed the offensive board for a putback score and four-point swing in favor Pittsburg.
PHS closed out the half on a 7-2 run, highlighted by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Roelfs to send both teams into the locker room with the Dragons up 46-24.
Atchison scored the first two baskets out of the break — buckets from Taye Helms and Smith — but Pittsburg got a 3-pointer from Butcher at the wing to make the score 49-28.
Butcher knocked down two more 3-pointers in the quarter, the second of which put PHS up 57-32 with 3:50 left in the third.
Atchison made a run at the lead in the closing minutes, outscoring PHS 14-1 thanks to several easy baskets in transition.
Atchison picked up an intentional foul 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, with PHS getting 1-of-2 free throws and the ball back, which turned into two more free throws by English to make the score 59-46.
English accounted for six of the first seven points scored in the fourth by the Dragons to push the lead up to 65-46.
Smith answered with a run of his own for the Redmen, scoring seven straight points to bring Atchison within 12, 65-53.
Matthew Schrick got the ball in transition and scored on the drive, drawing the foul in the process for a three-point play to get Atchison within single digits, 65-56, with 4:50 to play.
Curtis got a basket in the low post to end the run.
Nine points was as close as the Redmen would get to the lead before the final horn sounded.
STRONG DEFENSIVE EFFORT LEADS PHS GIRLS TO WIN
Pittsburg girls basketball held Atchison to one field goal in the first half on the way to a 46-11 opening-round rout as the host in the Border Classic.
PHS’s relentless defense allowed the Lady Red one basket in the first 16 minutes of action, building a 31-2 advantage by the intermission. The Purple Dragons (6-4, 4-1 SEK) cruised in the second half, with a running clock enforced in the fourth quarter.
“Atchison is missing their two best players. They have some pretty decent guards, but when their post went down, it made things a little bit easier for us,” Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton said. “We’ve had the defensive effort all year, and we had it again today. A lot of it was rebounding and holding them to one shot. For the most part, it was just good communication, good effort and good hustle on our part.”
Taylor Muff led Pittsburg in scoring with 12 points, all in the first half. She added three rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Abbie Casper finished with nine points and five rebounds, while Kaitlyn Kidd contributed seven points, five rebounds and a block.
Logan Lord scored scored three, led the team in assists with five and had two steals for PHS.
The tandem of Lord and Muff was on display early, with Lord assisting on three consecutive Muff baskets to put PHS on top 6-0 out of the gate.
“The thing that impressed me about Taylor is she did her work early,” Flaton said. “She got in good post position to set her man up. Logan had some really nice passes, which we’ve been working on. Those two have a little bit of chemistry together. They have so many years of playing together, watching games together and being good friends that it shows sometimes on the court.”
Atchison got its only basket of the first half on a score inside from Lindsay Anderson to trim the lead to four, but PHS rattled off 13 unanswered points to close the quarter up 19-2.
Muff highlighted the quarter with 10 points.
Pittsburg didn’t slow down in the second period, but this time it was Kidd who had the strong start, grabbing an offensive rebound for a putback to start the quarter.
Kidd battled contact at the low block, drawing the foul in the process, for a three-point play, and added another bucket in the paint to give the Purple Dragons a 26-2 lead.
“She came to the bench [in the first quarter] frustrated just because she had a lot of attempts, but not a lot of them were falling,” Flaton said. “We told her to keep going and the one of the first things she does is get an and-1 and makes the free throw. Unbelievable job by her to be able to keep fighting, I was proud of what she was able to do tonight.”
Casper picked the pocket of the Atchison ball handler near the 3-point line and finished off the play with a layup on the break at the 4:17 mark.
She finished off the first half for PHS with a baseline jumper to send both teams in the locker room with Pittsburg up 31-2.
A 3-pointer out of the break from Beitzinger, followed by a Casper jumper and a Muff score inside gave PHS a 38-2 lead early in the third.
PHS called off the dogs, getting the underclassmen minutes with the game well in hand.
“It’s good to get the [starters] some rest, I just hope their legs are loosened up at this point,” Flaton said. “The younger girls got some really good, quality minutes. We got some things to happen, and hopefully some learning occurred tonight.”
The Pittsburg boys are in action next against the winner of Blue Valley Northwest/Neosho at 3 p.m. on Saturday at John Lance Arena for the claim of Border Classic champion.
The Pittsburg girls battled West Plains at 6:15 p.m. Friday inside PHS’ main gym.
-- 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.