PITTSBURG — A day after falling in the opening round of the Border Classic, the host Pittsburg boys’ basketball team earned a bounce-back win by beating Carl Junction 49-25 Friday.
The Purple Dragons (6-5) jumped out to an early lead by the end of the first quarter. After holding down the Bulldogs in the second and third periods, Pittsburg pulled away from Carl Junction early in the fourth quarter.
“It was nice. After losing big like we did [yesterday] and on a short turnaround, you never know how the kids are going to react,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “I felt like I knew how they would respond, and they went out and responded that way. I thought we had a really solid defensive end of the floor. Offensively, I thought we were a little spurty, but we had enough of those spurts.”
Pittsburg’s defense had no problem limiting the Bulldogs in the first half Friday, holding Carl Junction to 15 points in the first 16 minutes of game action. The PHS offense did its part to take advantage of the opportunity to build up a lead by halftime.
“[Our defense] was huge. We really emphasis what we need to do on the defensive end in order to take away the other team’s strengths,” Roelfs said. “I thought our guys, in a short turnaround like that, really did a nice job of adjusting to what [Carl Junction] wanted to do.”
The opening period fell in the favor of the Purple Dragons, who scored 10 unanswered points over five minutes of game action to take a 14-4 lead.
A 3-pointer from Elijah Harris at the wing started the run, which was followed by a Carl Junction turnover that led to a Sherrick Rogers run out at the other end.
Harris finished the game with six points, as did Rogers and Chase Curtis.
Dylan Untereker — Pittsburg’s leading scorer with 13 points — grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds on the next pair of Pittsburg possessions to score two put-back baskets, giving the Purple Dragons a 12-4 lead with less than two minutes to play in the opening quarter.
Pittsburg pushed their advantage to 10 when Marque English grabbed another offensive rebound for a second-chance score with 15 seconds left.
The Bulldogs got a pair of free throws from Trent Smith to finish out the half by cutting PHS’ lead to 14-6.
The Purple Dragons took a hit on both ends of the floor when Untereker picked up his third foul of the game in the first quarter, forcing Coach Roelfs to sit him for all of the second period. Fortunately, PHS had several players step up in his absence to keep the momentum in Pittsburg’s favor.
“Anytime we have to sit him, or any of our big guys, it can have an effect on the offensive end,” Roelfs said. “The good news is, we have had guys coming off the bench to give us good minutes consistently all year long. That was the case again tonight.”
With Untereker on the bench, PHS didn’t extend their lead, but the defense continued to be a strength by keeping the Bulldogs at bay over the second period. In fact, it wasn’t until they fourth quarter that Pittsburg distanced themselves from Carl Junction to put the game away.
The Purple Dragons scored the first 12 points of the final quarter to grow their lead to 23 points.
“Even during this winning streak, we haven’t really [put teams away] that often,” Roelfs said. “We did that tonight, and hopefully that’s something we’ll be able to build on.
Harris knocked down a 3-pointer to start the fourth following an empty Bulldog possession.
Untereker found his offensive groove once more after a pair of free throws followed by an old fashioned three-point play when he got his man up in the air on a pump fake in the post, dropping the shot to get the and-one attempt.
The Purple Dragons continued their success down low as English scored on the right side of the hoop the next trip down the floor.
With 2:53 left in the game, Untereker essentially put the final nail in the Carl Junction coffin when he pulled up in the lane for a jumper to make the score 45-22. He was fouled on the play, but the and-one attempt was no good.
PHS cruised from there as they put away the Bulldogs for the win, earning a third game in the 2016 Border Classic.
Pittsburg is in action at 3 p.m. today in the main gym at PHS.
Purple Dragon girls fall in waning moments
It was a wide range of emotions for the Pittsburg girls’ basketball team in their second-round matchup with West Plains Friday at the 2016 Border Classic.
With less than 20 seconds left to play and down 45-43, Pittsburg’s Abbie Casper caught the ball 12 feet out on the baseline, took two dribbles towards her basket, and sank a pull-up jumper to tie the game at 45-all. It looked as if the game was heading into overtime, but West Plain’s Cameryn Johnson had snuck behind the PHS defense on the inbound play for a cherry-pick layup at the other end with 3.5 seconds on the clock to give her team the 47-45 win .
“They’re crushed,” Pittsburg head coach Eric Flaton said. “They are beat up mentally because they know they had a chance. We overplayed on the press ... We have some more to learn. I had a timeout, and I probably should have called it. That’s how I’ll learn. These girls still fought and put themselves in position to win, so I’ll take the blame for it.”
After trailing for nearly all of the first half to West Plains (11-6), Pittsburg tied the game up in the opening moments of the third quarter when Casper scored on the inside to knot things up at 20-all.
Casper finished with seven points for Pittsburg.
The Purple Dragons (9-3) gained their first lead of the game shortly after when Ashlee Beitzinger — who finished the game with a team-high 12 points — connected on a 3-pointer from the corner with 4:57 on the clock to go ahead 23-22.
“It gave us a lot of belief at that point that we could hang with those guys,” Flaton said. “We still battle with, ‘Are they better than us? Are they that much better than us?’ When we can take leads like that, I think we gain a little more confidence.”
It was a back-and-forth affair the remainder of quarter, neither team able to more than a one-possession advantage.
“[These types of games] apply pressure,” Flaton said. “We needed some pressure like that because I don’t think we’ve been in that type of game this year. In the long run, I think this will be good for us, but they may not realize it until later next week.”
It wasn’t until Pittsburg took a 37-33 lead three minutes into the fourth that either team saw a little bit of breathing room.
The Purple Dragon girls had a tough time cracking the Zizzers’ defense early in the contest, scoring a pair of baskets in the first quarter.
“Give them credit, they are a great team who is fast, quick and do everything right,” Flaton said. “The problem is that we had travels, bad passes and we passed up wide open shots in the first quarter. It was just hard for us to get into a flow.”
Taylor Muff opened the scoring for PHS with a bucket near the four-minute mark, while Mary Garrett ripped a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:02 remaining to send PHS into the second quarter down 13-5.
Muff had 10 points in the loss, while Garrett finished with six.
Pittsburg found their groove in the second period as they outscored West Plains 13-7 in the second period to trail by two at the half, 20-18.
Logan Lord — had three 3-pointers on the night for nine points — started off the second period with a pair of triples to get within five of the lead.
Muff stole the ball at the top of the key during the ensuing Zizzers’ possession and took the ball down the floor for a fast-break score to cut the West Plains lead to 16-13.
Pittsburg closed out the quarter with another Garrett triple and a pair of free throws by Beitzinger to head into the locker room down by two.
“We able to crash on rebounding, and I think that gave us a little encouragement to think we could do this,” Flaton said.
Pittsburg will battle with Blue Valley Northwest at 9 a.m. today at John Lance Arena in the third-place game.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter at @LDsportswriter.