PITTSBURG — Coming into their Southeast Kansas League matchup with Fort Scott, the Pittsburg girls basketball team was looking to get back on track Tuesday night at home following a loss to Chanute their last time in the court.
It was a struggle offensively in the first half for either team to gain much in terms of momentum, but the Purple Dragons’ offense found rhythm in the third quarter to build an eight-point lead. PHS held on to the advantage in the fourth to earn the 52-38 win over the Tigers.
“We did eventually do what we wanted to do,” Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton said. “It was hard and well fought. Fort Scott did a great job, but our goal is always to win the fourth quarter and I think we really achieved that tonight.”
Pittsburg (6-2) had to a find a way to deal with the tightly-called game early on, which resulted in a combined 22 free throws in the first half by both teams. With each squad heading to the stripe 11 times in the first two quarters, offensive rhythm was hard to come by.
“A lot of credit to [Fort Scott’s] defense, they got out on us and forced us to take low-percentage shots that were contested,” Flaton said. “Too many fouls by both teams takes you out of rhythm. We were able to get back on track eventually.”
The Purple Dragons made the halftime adjustment for the third period, scoring five times from the field to take a 34-26 lead with one quarter to play.
“We talked about how our defense has to generate more offense, especially if we are going to miss shots,” Flaton said. “Our defense has to drive us to get better shots on offense. I was happy we were able to do that.”
Ashlee Beitzinger — who led the PHS charge in the first half, scoring 12 points on the evening — started out the third with a pair of baskets after attacking the hole then pulling up for high-percentage jump shots.
“Not only was she our reliable scorer, she is our best defender,” Flaton said. “For her to come out and to get after it, I think generated the offense ... She is really turning into a great player for us.”
PHS was without their leading scorer, Taylor Muff, for majority of the second half after she pick up two quick fouls to give her four on the evening with 4:16 to play in the third.
When she left the game, Pittsburg held a six-point lead. Muff returned with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter and PHS leading 43-28. She later fouled out with 2:08 left and the game well in hand by PHS.
“Kailey Curtis had a huge two quarters for us even though she hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time,” Flaton said. “Aubrey Beitzinger played the most important 20 seconds of her career because we didn’t want to risk getting other players another foul. She really competed and did a great job. Everybody around Taylor picking her up is huge for us.”
Muff finished the game with 11 points for PHS.
The fourth quarter saw Pittsburg pull away from the Tigers, building their lead as high as 19 points on a basket by Daeshia Turner with 2:24 left in regulation.
Abbie Casper had a huge role for the Purple Dragons’ success in the final period, scoring the first five points and adding a steal in the process to give PHS a 39-26 lead. She finished the night as the leading scorer with 13 points in the win, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
“She goes in there and is getting after every single rebound and getting put backs,” Flaton said. “Abbie absolutely had a great night. She picks up the defensively for us defensively. She is a great teammate and I’m happy for her to have a great night scoring.”
Fort Scott’s Ashley Cook led all scorers with 16 points in the Tiger loss.
The Purple Dragon girls hit the road Friday for a 6: p.m. matchup with Labette County.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter at @LDsportswriter.