PITTSBURG — It was a night to remember for Pittsburg boys basketball, as the Dragons earned at least a share of the Southeast Kansas League title after defeating Fort Scott 61-28 Tuesday.
“I am happy for the kids,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “We are a long way from being done, but it was definitely one of our goals. I am proud of our kids for being able to get to this point.”
Pittsburg (16-1, 10-0 SEK) came out on fire, outscoring the Tigers 22-17 in the first quarter thanks to a fast-paced, rim-attacking offense. The Dragons used the 3-ball early in the second quarter to distance themselves from FSHS, and held the Tigers scoreless in the third to push the lead to more than 30 down the stretch of the win.
“Anytime we can beat Fort Scott, you feel pretty good about it,” Roelfs said. “Our kids had really good focus for a lot of the game tonight. Hopefully, we can continue to get better because that’s where our focus has to be.”
PHS had a trio of scorers finish in double figures, with Marque English leading the way with 13 points. He added eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
Gavyn Elkamil finished with 12 points, three rebounds, and two steals, while Trent Austin scored 11 and grabbed five rebounds in the win.
Chase Curtis scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds for the Dragons.
Nick Lawrence and Grant Goldston each scored six to lead the Tigers in the loss.
Fort Scott raced to an early 4-2 lead over the first several minutes before PHS closed out the opening quarter on an 18-5 run to take the momentum.
A three-point play from Curtis kicked off the run, with English following up with back-to-back scores inside — including a three-point play of his own — to put the Dragons on top 10-4.
Fort Scott’s C.J. Horton scored his team’s next three points before PHS closed the first eight minutes with the final 12 points.
Elkamil drove baseline for a basket, and Austin followed with a score on the break, drawing the foul and completing the three-point play, to make the score 15-7 with less than two minutes to play in the quarter.
Elkamil earned a steal at the other end and turned it into an English coast-to-coast layup to put PHS up 10, 17-7.
Curtis stole the ball and found Austin for a transition basket, which was followed by a 3-pointer in the corner from Drew Roelfs to close the first period with the Dragons leading 22-7.
“Sometimes, it’s a hard thing for kids to understand that you’ll get better shots on the perimeter once you make them guard you inside,” Coach Roelfs said. “I thought we settled for jump shots early on, but we did a better job of starting to attack and moving the basketball.”
Back-to-back 3-balls from Roelfs and Jerek Butcher out of the break gave the Dragons their first 20-point lead, 28-7, with 6:30 left.
Pittsburg maintained the lead throughout the remainder of the first half, getting a steal and a fast-break, two-handed flush from Austin to send PHS into the locker room with a 42-21 advantage.
Pittsburg’s lead grew to more than 30 in the third quarter after holding the Tigers off the scoreboard, outscoring Fort Scott 14-0 to force a running clock in the fourth quarter.
“I liked our focus,” Coach Roelfs said. “We weren’t happy with a few things at halftime, and I think our kids really locked in when they came out … We just kept defending and really clamped down, eventually getting the offense going to give us that spread.”
Curtis and English each had four points in the quarter to lead the Dragons.
DRAGONS’ DEFENSE SETS PACE IN WIN
Pittsburg girls basketball continued its strong play in the Southeast Kansas League with a 43-23 win over Fort Scott Tuesday.
Defensive pressure set the pace for the Purple Dragons early, holding the Tigers (6-11, 4-5 SEK) to three field goals in the first half, while building double-digit advantage. With lead in hand, PHS (12-6, 9-1 SEK) methodically put Fort Scott away in the final two quarters, pushing the lead to 20 or more several times while pulling away in the fourth.
“It was a scrappy win,” Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton said. “We just did what we needed to do. We didn’t score the ball well, we had moments when we did, but we really struggled to find ways to score. The good thing is our defence has been there consistently, and it was again tonight.”
Taylor Muff led the way for Pittsburg, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds in the win.
Daeshia Turner finished with eight points, grabbed four boards and had three steals for the Dragons.
Aubree Beitzinger knocked down a pair of 3-pointers on the way to seven points.
Pittsburg’s suffocating defense once again paved the way for the Dragons to build a double-digit lead in the first half.
After allowing the Tigers just two field goals in the first quarter, the PHS defense bettered themselves in the second, as Fort Scott sank just one shot from the field in the second period to trail 22-7 by the intermission.
“It allows you to be a little more aggressive offensively,” Flaton said when asked how important it was for his team to hold the Tigers to three field goals in the first half. “We can relax a little on offense because we know our defense can get stops when we need to.”
Pittsburg allowed the first basket of the game before outscoring the Tigers 12-2 to close the first quarter.
Kaitlyn Kidd sank a pair of jumpers from the elbow, and Beitzinger connected from the perimeter to put PHS up 7-2.
The Dragons finished with field goals from Turner off the drive, and a steal for a score on the break by Lord to head into the second period up by eight.
The lead stretched to double digits early in the second quarter as the Dragons scored the first two baskets to take an 18-4 advantage.
Kaydn Matlock scored inside to start the second, with Beitzinger following it up with another 3-ball to push the lead to 17-4 with 4:55 left in the half.
Madison Cook scored FSHS’ only basket of the period with a 3-pointer at the top of the with less than two minutes remaining, but the Dragons answered with back-to-back scores from Muff to close out the first half with a 22-7 lead.
The Purple Dragons pushed the lead to 18 points by the close of the third quarter, and essentially put the game away in the fourth with a 9-0 run midway through.
Muff hit a 3-pointer from the wing to start the surge, with Turner knocking down a runner in the lane to make the score 37-18 with 5:32 on the clock.
Kidd found room inside for a basket, and Muff followed with a pull-up jumper off the drive to put the Dragons on top 41-18 with 3:40 left in the contest.
Pittsburg hits the road to face Labette County, with the girls’ game scheduled to tip at 6 p.m. on Friday.
-- 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.