PITTSBURG —A strong finish to the third quarter by Joplin brought the Eagles back to within two points of tying the game, but the Pittsburg High School basketball team pulled away in the final eight minutes of regulation to win 66-49.
The Purple Dragons held on for the victory by out scoring the Eagles 21-6 in the fourth quarter.
“I think our guys just stayed focused,” PHS head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “We talked at halftime about not getting too high or too low, but just trying to maintain focus. Joplin made a run at the end of the third quarter and I thought our kids were able to stay focused. We got back in the huddle and we told them to keep attacking and getting stops. Fortunately, we were able to make a run at the beginning of the fourth quarter which ended up being the difference.”
The Eagles jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead in the opening minutes of the contest, but Pittsburg rallied to tie the score at 7-all thanks to five consecutive points scored between Chase Curtis and Marque English.
PHS went on to take a 20-12 advantage into the second quarter on the strength of a 13-3 run which was highlighted by four points from Trent Austin and included a 3-pointer from Drew Roelfs.
Both teams traded buckets in the second quarter, before the Eagles caught fire in the second half, scoring the final nine points of the third quarter to narrow the gap to 45-43 heading into the fourth.
The Purple Dragons got back on track after the break, as they began the final eight minutes of regulation with nine unanswered points of their own to increase the lead back to nine.
English scored four of Pittsburg’s nine unanswered points and went on to add six more to the Purple Dragons’ tally as a part of a 10-0 run to seal the win.
Curtis accounted for the other four of Pittsburg’s 10 points to close out the contest.
“This is what we expect from our guys,” Kiley Roelfs said. “Defense is a big deal in our program and I think our guys believe in that. We have guys who are hungry and I think that was a big part of what that fourth quarter was all about.”
English led the way offensively for PHS, scoring a team-high 23 points in the win.
Austin also finished in double digits, posting 12 points.
The Purple Dragons will close out the season with a road trip to Coffeyville at 6 p.m. on Friday.
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.