PITTSBURG — Pittsburg girls basketball opened up its first game as the host of the 2016 Border Classic basketball tournament with a 13-0 run and used that push on the way to a 62-33 first-round win over Atchison Thursday.
The Purple Dragons (9-2) stole the momentum early from the Redmen, using a strong transition game on the way to a 13-point advantage over the first five-plus minutes of action. PHS built their lead to 20 points early in the second half, and continued to stay aggressive until they put the game well out of hand by the final period.
“We’ve had some games where we really try to feel out the other team before we started playing,” Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton said. “It was nice to have a game where we didn’t do that. We just did what we do and it led to that early run for us. It was huge and it gave us confidence throughout the rest of the game.”
Taylor Muff scored the first 11 points for the Purple Dragons, getting four baskets from close range before knocking down a 3-pointer with 4:10 left to single-handedly give her team an early double-digit lead.
“She’s our security blanket,” Flaton said. “When she showed up big early for us tonight, it made everybody feel at ease and relaxed. She’s our leader by example and when she’s on, it just allows everyone else to play their game.”
Muff led all scorers in the PHS win, putting up 17 points for the Dragons.
Pittsburg kept Atchison off the scoreboard for the first 5:20 of the ball game. Dezmen Duncan scored inside and drew a foul for the Redmen’s first basket. The and-one free throw was not successful.
“We’ve had some spells where we were able to hold a team down. To do it at the very beginning tonight really sent a message,” Flaton said. “Unofficially, we had 22 points off turnovers. That’s huge for us.”
Atchison never seemed to fully recover from the early drought that led to Purple Dragons’ big lead. They cut the lead to seven points by the end of the quarter, but Pittsburg outscored the Redmen 19-8 in second period to establish themselves the rest of the way.
“They were getting points from offensive rebounding, getting second chances,” Flaton said. “We felt like if we could take that away we would take control of the game again. Our girls did a great job of that in the second quarter.”
Mckenzie Wilks jumpstarted the PHS offense in the second quarter with a baseline jumper coupled with a 3-pointer from the wing moments later. She finished with seven points.
Logan Lord — who finished with five points in the win — knocked down a triple of her own on the ensuing PHS possession to make the lead 11 points, 25-14, with four minutes to play.
From there, Pittsburg went into the intermission on an 8-1 run to lead 33-15.
Muff dished the ball in transition to Kaitlyn Kidd, who took the ball up from the low block on the left side for the score. She drew a foul on the play, converting the and-one free throw for the final score of the first two quarters.
The lead reached 31 points, 55-24, with 1:45 to play in the third quarter on a jumper from the high block by Abbie Casper.
Casper and Ashlee Beitzinger each finished with 11 points for Pittsburg.
It was a running clock in the fourth quarter of the Purple Dragon win.
“Getting that first win is huge because we came in with the goal of wanting to be 1-0 and on the winner’s side of the bracket,” Flaton said. “Our confidence keeps building, and hopefully we can keep that going.”
Pittsburg and West Plains will square off in the second round of the 2016 Border Classic at 6:15 pm in the main gym at PHS.
Blue Valley Northwest outruns Pittsburg to win
The team’s opening contest of the Border Classic basketball tournament didn’t go as planned for host Pittsburg boys’ basketball.
The Purple Dragons (5-5) ran into a talented Blue Valley Northwest team (6-2) who used pressure on both ends to pull out to a double-digit lead by halftime. The Huskies kept up the frantic pace at both ends of the floor without Pittsburg finding a response on the way to a 70-38 loss Thursday.
“My overriding thought is that they were really good,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “I thought we were really good in short stretches, but if you’re not good for 32 minutes against a team like that, they'll make you pay. They made things really hard on us, with their athleticism and their length playing a large part.”
After a tightly contested first quarter separated by just three points in favor of BVNW, 13-10, Pittsburg had a hard time finding the bucked in the second eight minutes. Blue Valley Northwest did a good job of limiting PHS’ fast-break opportunities while forcing the Purple Dragons into turnovers that led to points going the other way to build up their lead.
Each team traded scores to start the period before the Huskies rattled of 11 straight points to push their lead to 15.
Back-to-back fast-break scores from AJ Pleasant — the second of which turned into a three-point play after an and-one free throw — the Huskies jumped out to a 21-12 lead.
A block on the Pittsburg end led to a third straight transition score for Northwest, the second in a row that ended in a three-point play following a foul.
A PHS turnover on their ensuing possession resulted in Sam Ward knocking down a 3-pointer in the Huskies’ set offense to extend the lead to 27-12 with 2:32 left in the first half.
Ward had 15 points in the Huskie win.
Elijah Harris ended the BVNW run after dribbling down inside the defense and laying the ball up on the left side of the basket for a score.
Harris finished the game with six points for Pittsburg.
Blue Valley Northwest finished out the final two minutes of the first half with a 10-2 run to take a 37-17 lead into the intermission.
Ward and Darien Jackson each knocked down 3-pointers for the Huskies, and both players each had dunks in transition off PHS turnovers to send Northwest into the locker room with all of the momentum after outscoring the Dragons 24-7 in the second period.
“It made a difference in the game,” Roelfs said. “They had a bunch of momentum going into halftime. We went in and talked about it happening. We didn’t want it to happen, but it did. They’re a good team and they’re going to go on some runs. We’ve got to come back out and try to answer their run and get things going our way.”
Jackson scored a game-high 28 points for Blue Valley Northwest.
The Purple Dragons couldn’t figure out a way to combat the relentless attack both offensively and defensively by the Huskies in the second half.
“I thought we hung tough for a while there early in the second half,” Roelfs said. “But again, if you make errors it’s all of a sudden it’s another 6-0 or 8-0 run. They put a couple of those together and put us in a really tough spot.”
Blue Valley Northwest pulled out to a 30-point lead by the end of the third quarter when Rigley Nuss pulled up in the middle of the lane for a jumper with time expiring to make the score 62-32 with one quarter to play.
Pittsburg’s Marque English was forced from the game at the start of the fourth quarter when he and Ward dove for a loose ball in the PHS backcourt. English came to his feet bleeding from a cut over his left eye.
English and Sherrick Rogers led the Purple Dragons in scoring with seven points each.
Pittsburg takes on Carl Junction play at 4:45 p.m. today in the MMAC Gym at PHS in the continuation of the 2016 Border Classic.
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.