EAST PRAIRIE - The East Prairie Eagles basketball team overcome a huge third quarter deficit at home on Tuesday night and defeated the Clarkton Reindeer 99-90 in overtime.
It was senior night at East Prairie and two seniors stepped up in their last home game of their careers. Paris Tipler and Randy Woods had 31 points apiece to pace the scoring for the Eagles.
"We have a great group of seniors," said East Prairie head coach Matt Schonhoff. "The kids have really come together under a first year head coach and having to learn a new system. It has been a dream season for me and I truly love my guys and the effort they put out everyday."
The Reindeer controlled the first half with sharp shooting and tenacity on the boards. Clarkton went 11-for-11 from the foul line in the first half and outrebounded East Prairie 25-10, including 13-3 on the offensive glass.
Casey Redden and Tyler Criglar led the Reindeer in first half with 12 points apiece. Redden hit two long-range 3's and Criglar gave Clarkton a spark off the bench. The 'Deer led 46-34 at halftime.
"We played well and took it to them in the first half," said Clarkton head coach Jason Long. "Our kids were working and running the offense extremely well. We hit some open shots and that allowed us to gain some working room in the paint."
As in previous games, when forward Tony Jones of the Eagles gets in foul trouble, East Prairie usually struggles. Against the Reindeer, Jones didn't play but six minutes in the first half and picked up his fourth foul with 6:20 to play in the third quarter.
With Jones on the sideline, Clarkton went to work and after a 12-4 run, led 58-38 with five minutes to play in the third. Redden remained hot in the quarter with eight points, including two 3-pointers to pace the run by Clarkton.
"Clarkton just killed our press early in the game," said Schonhoff. "We made some costly turnovers and to their credit, they took advantage and we got into a big hole. But our kids didn't quit when they were down by 20 points and they kept clawing back into the game."
The Eagles slowly started to make their comeback late in the third quarter. Over the final four minutes of third, East Prairie went on a 12-0 run and trailed 62-56 heading into the final quarter.
Tipler and Woods led the charge back for the Eagles. Tipler had 10 points in the quarter including 6-for-6 from the foul line. Woods chipped in eight points for East Prairie and the momentum seemed to favor the Eagles heading into the fourth quarter.
"I told our kids in the third quarter to keep playing our style of ball," said Schonhoff. "We don't have a 20-point shot, we had to chip away slowly at the lead and the kids reacted very well. They didn't get their heads down and they just kept working. The kids understood we had plenty of time to comeback, we just needed to make little runs to get back into it. I thought we did that in the third."
Clarkton kept their lead around three or five points for most of the fourth quarter. Their biggest lead of the quarter came with 1:45 to play in the game and the Reindeer were up 79-72.
The Eagles cut the lead to 81-78 on their next two offensive possessions, as Woods hit two free-throws and Tipler hit one with 45 seconds left in the fourth. Matt Trudell missed the front end of a one-and-one and East Prairie took advantage as Tipler scored on the other end to make the score 81-80 in favor of Clarkton with 25 seconds to go.
After Redden of the Reindeer hit 1-of-2 free throws to make the 82-80, Woods tied the score for the Eagles with a basket in the paint with 10 seconds to play. Clarkton had one last look at the basket, but Jones blocked a point-blank look by Clarkton's Dustin Ferguson with under a second to play. The Reindeer could not get a shot off before the buzzer and the game went into overtime tied at 82.
"I thought we lost our heads a little bit in the second half," said Long. "East Prairie just penetrated at will on our defense. They got to the basket anytime they wanted. Our inability to stop the dribble penetration has cost us the last two games."
It was all East Prairie in the overtime, as the Eagles outscored the Reindeer 17-8 in the extra session. Once again for East Prairie, it was Tipler and Woods. The guard duo combined to score 13 of the Eagles' 17 points and went a combined 7-for-11 from the charity stripe in overtime.
"I thought our guards really attacked the rim late in the game," said Schonhoff. "We cut down on our turnovers and hit some crucial free-throws in the second half."
Criglar led Clarkton with 27 points and 13 rebounds (eight offensive). Redden ended his night with 25 points, including four 3's and had a team-high seven steals.
Justin Brown went for 16 points and seven rebounds (five offensive) and Ferguson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive) and seven assists.
Clarkton outrebounded East Prairie 38-35 for the game, including 25-18 on the offensive boards. The downfall for the Reindeer was turnovers. Clarkton committed 29 turnovers for the contest.
"We just made silly turnovers, that's the thing," said Long. "We are better than what we shown on the floor tonight. Give credit to East Prairie, they continued to battle back. We will get better. We have lost two straight now right before districts. Our season is not over, we won't quit."
In limited action, Jones had 15 points and 15 rebounds (eight offensive) for the Eagles. M.C. Williams had 12 points, five steals and four rebounds off the bench for East Prairie.
"This is a big win for our program," said Schonhoff. "Clarkton is a very good team. They are well-coached with some great shooters and athletes."
East Prairie (17-8) will participate in the Class 3, District 1 Tournament starting on Monday. The Eagles garnered the No. 4 seed and will face fifth seeded Kelly Hawks at 6:30 p.m.
Clarkton (21-3) will finish up their regular season on Friday when the Bernie Mules come to town at 6 p.m.