The Eagles put the game away in the third quarter with a 19-3 run, fueled by the play of senior Mitchell Winchester. After only scoring two points in the first half, Winchester found his groove in the second half with 24 points to lead East Prairie to the win.
"Mitchell did an excellent job in the second half of going to the basket and making some big shots for the team," said East Prairie head coach Jason Irby. "But it was a team effort and everybody who played tonight contributed. Caleb (Hatton) got some big rebounds, Tony (Jones) played well down in the post and Dez (Johnson) ran the point efficiently."
Led by Johnson and Jones in the first quarter, East Prairie led 24-17 heading into the second quarter. The Eagles trailed early in the quarter as 6-foot-5 junior forward Jonathan Helm scored the first six points of the game for Puxico, as the Indians led 6-2 early.
East Prairie went on a 6-0 run midway through the first, as Johnson scored four points and had an assist in the run. The Eagles extended the lead late in the quarter on a 8-0 run to put East Prairie up 24-15. Jones scored eight points and had three rebounds in the first. Johnson chipped in with six points and had three assists.
Puxico (11-9) rallied back in the second quarter with long-range shooting and some good play of their bench. Matt Allison hit three 3s in the quarter and David Crain came off the bench for the Indians and pumped in nine points, much coming from the paint.
The Indians regained the lead late in the second quarter on the heels of a 9-0 run and led 32-30. Puxico took a 39-34 lead into halftime.
Crain, Helm and Allison all had nine points at the half for Puxico. Point guard Cody Stilts had five points and four assists by halftime for the Indians.
"Even though we led at halftime," said Puxico head coach Chad Allen, "I thought the team came out flat tonight. Truth is, they seemed to be flat all night. East Prairie just wanted it more. We just did not fight for the loose ball or battled on the boards very well tonight."
Jones led East Prairie at halftime with 12 points and had four rebounds. Johnson ended the half with eight points and five assists. Hatton had five points and five rebounds (four offensive) for the Eagles at half.
East Prairie hit the floor running at the start of the third quarter. The Eagles, led by Winchester, started the third on a 10-0 run and led 44-39 with four minutes left in the quarter. East Prairie rolled through the rest of the third and led 60-48 heading into the final quarter.
Helm tried to bring the Indians back in the fourth quarter after he hit a free throw to cap a conventional 3-point play. Puxico trailed 77-71 with two minutes remaining in the quarter but could not get any closer.
East Prairie closed out the game hitting free throws and gained the 84-73 victory.
"Give all the credit to East Prairie," said Allen, "like I said before, they (East Prairie) wanted it more. We did not rebound well tonight and our effort on defense was lacking. We didn't take any charges. If East Prairie got in the lane, which they did at will, they either scored or got fouled and went to the free throw line."
Helm led Puxico with 21 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive). Cody Clark had 13 points, while Allison finished with 12 points by hitting four 3-
pointers. Crain ended up with 11 points and five rebounds.
Puxico got more production from their bench, as Lloyd McClure had nine points, six rebounds and five assists. The Indians outscored East Prairie's bench 20-10 in the game.
Winchester finished the contest with 26 points and had five rebounds for East Prairie. Johnson had a stellar night running the point for the Eagles with 14 points, 11 assists, three rebounds and three steals.
Before fouling out midway through the fourth, Jones had 14 points, eight rebounds (five offensive) and four steals for the Eagles.
Hatton had a good game for East Prairie with nine points and led the Eagles with 11 rebounds (seven offensive). Randy Woods hit a 3-pointer on his way to 11 points in the game. Tyler Branam scored six points off the bench for East Prairie.
"We did a better job in the second half of getting out on their (Puxico) shooters," said Irby. "We did an excellent job of rebounding as a team tonight. This a good win tonight over a tough team in Puxico."
East Prairie outrebounded Puxico 32-29 and had a 15-12 advantage in offensive rebounds.
The Indians had 19 assists compared to 17 for the Eagles. East Prairie got 12 steals, while Puxico got five. Puxico committed 20 turnovers and East Prairie finished with 15.
East Prairie (10-8) will play at Scott City on Friday night.