(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
BLOOMFIELD -- Looking to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class 3, District 1 Tournament, the ninth-seeded East Prairie Eagles fell to the eighth-seeded Twin Rivers Royals 70-48 in Saturday's play-in game.
"I felt like tonight everybody wanted to step up and be 'the man' instead of playing as a team," East Prairie head coach Casey Knight said. "We weren't moving the ball on offense. Just a lot of kill grass dribbling in one spot or trying to drive on three people. We dug a hole there and really wasn't able to come out of that."
Trailing 9-0 after a hot start by the Royals, East Prairie was able to regroup and get on the scoreboard with back-to-back baskets with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
Unable to contain Twin Rivers, however, the Eagles entered the final eight minutes of the half down 17-6 thanks in part to seven points from Michael Snider and six from Eric Ray.
Though East Prairie strung together three straight baskets midway through the second frame to hang within 13 points of the Royals, Blake Moore provided the Royals with three of his game-high four 3-pointers on the contest to push his team up 34-19 at the half.
"We've been up and down all year and tonight we came out with a lot of energy and shot the ball well," Royals' head coach Dustin Benson said. "Defensively we put a lot of pressure on them. That was our plan, to guard them full court and try to create some turnovers.
"I've got a bigger bench than I normally have because I brought a couple jayvee kids up, so I tried to utilize that."
Twin Rivers started the second half with a pair of 3-pointers from Wes McCollum and Michael Snider as part of a 17-4 third-quarter run. Down by 28 points, 51-23, late in the third, the Eagles were able to close out the frame on a 6-0 rally to enter the fourth trailing 51-29.
Unfortunately for East Prairie, that momentum wouldn't carry over as the Royals maintained at least a 20-point advantage the entire fourth frame.
"The first half we struggled to get the ball (inside)," Knight said. "We weren't making their defense shift so we're going up against a big broad shouldered kid and not getting the ball to fall. The second half we shifted their defense a little better and on offense was able to get some easier shots.
"The second half I thought we did better playing as a team and sharing the ball a little bit there, but it was already a done deal by then," Knight said.
Leading the Eagles, Devin Cook and Logan Staggs had 11 points each with Shawn King and Ryan Mathis adding 10 and nine points respectively to East Prairie's cause.
For the Royals, who had nine 3-pointers on the contest, Snider had a game-high 20 points with Ray contributing 16 points and Moore 12.
"We crashed the boards hard and did some things right," Benson said. "Especially making open three's. We started making three's and it opened up the inside so we could get it back down to Eric (Ray), Josh (Woodham) and all those guys. I thought they had a good game."
On his team's strong push to open the second half Benson added, "All year long we've had one really good half, whether it be the first or second. Tonight we had a really good first half so I said what we can't do is lose focus.
"We can't come out and give them a chance to catch back up and a make a run. We really came out (in the second half) with a lot of energy."
With the win, the Royals move on to play the top-seeded Charleston Bluejays today at 4 p.m.
Though their season comes to a close with a 3-21 record, Knight is optimistic about the Eagles future next season with a talented junior varsity roster moving up.
"We finished the year 14-5 ( in junior varsity) and really we'd like to have two of those (losses) back," he said. "But we're tickled with a 14-5 record. The one obstacle we do have is the fact that we have zero juniors so I'm going to have a handful of sophomores on varsity.
"We'll be a sophomore (heavy group) with a couple juniors on varsity next year. But hopefully with their success this season, they get in the gym with me all summer and keep developing."
EAST PRAIRIE (48) -- Shawn King 10, Nathan Maynard 1, Devin Cook 11, Damion Tipler 6, Logan Staggs 11, Ryan Mathis 9. FG 19, FT 9-13, F 10. (3-pointers: Cook 1. Fouled out: none.)
Twin Rivers (70) -- Blake Moore 12, Michael Snider 20, Wes McCollum 3, Nate Ezernack 7, Josh Woodham 6, Eric Ray 16, Cade Lowe 4, Seth Snider 2. FG 28, FT 5-9, F 15. (3-pointers: Moore 4, Snider 3, McCollum 1, Ray 1. Fouled out: none.)