Dominant start lifts East Prairie to Bloomfield Christmas Tournament consolation championship game
BLOOMFIELD -- Having watched Van Buren in its 62-47 win over Puxico the day prior, East Prairie head coach Casey Knight had a good idea of how he wanted to play the Bulldogs in Wednesday's consolation semifinals.
With dominant starts to both halves, the Eagles cruised to a 55-37 win that sends them to Wednesday's consolation championship game at the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament.
"We did a good job executing our game plan," East Prairie coach Casey Knight said. "We saw yesterday that they play a box-and-one on the (Levi) Woods boy from Puxico. We expected that and had a game plan against it. I thought we did a real good job executing that and getting our shots."
Against Puxico, the Bulldogs used the box-and-one to build a 16-1 lead in the first quarter and the Indians were never able to recover.
East Prairie flipped the script on Van Buren, holding them scoreless for almost six minutes to start the game while they built a 10-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs closed within two possessions entering the second quarter, 12-6, but were outscored 16-5 in the final eight minutes of the half to enter the locker room down 28-11.
"We wanted to press them," Knight said. "We saw them handle the press yesterday a little bit. We thought our athleticism was more of a matchup. We did a good job forcing turnovers. They had 19 at halftime."
A strong start to the second half by the Eagles' defense held Van Buren scoreless the first five minutes of the half. A 9-0 East Prairie run during that stretch gave the team it's biggest lead to that point, 37-11.
Van Buren countered with it's first set of back-to-back baskets of the night with three minutes to play in the third quarter, but never came close to cutting their deficit back into the single digits.
A basket by Deverence Jones to start the fourth gave the Eagles the their biggest advantage of the night, 44-15, and though they never enacted the turbo clock, they never allowed the Bulldogs to come close to a comeback.
"Our press has been good, but when we've fallen back half-court is where it's been shaking matching up out of it," Knight said. "I thought we did a lot better job tonight of doing that. It goes back to that defense we knew they were going to play.
"They were up 16-1 on Puxico using that, so we were lucky we got to see that and was prepared for it. We set the tone right there."
Jones led the Eagles (7-2) with 11 points on the afternoon while Derez Tipler and Cade Douglas had nine points each.
Luke Marcum and Dylan Lingle contributed eight and seven points respectively while the team sot 17 of 32 (53 percent) from the free throw line.
"We have a lot of weapons," Knight said. "If you take one away we'll hit you with somebody else. We had an offense set up for that and we came, they came out in it and we did a good job executing."
For Van Buren, Zach Griffin scored a game-high 18 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter.
VAN BUREN (37) -- Eli Dameworth 3, Riley Reed 5, Logan Sanders 3, Spencer Burnham 1, Matthew Shrontz 7, Zach Griffin 18. FG 12 FT 9-17 F 19. (3-pointers: Dameworth 1, Reed 1, Griffin 2. Fouled out: none.)
EAST PRAIRIE (55) -- Luke Marcum 8, Deverence Jones 11, Dylan Lingle 7, Derez Tipler 9, Brett Ellis 4, Jon Ross Slayden 1, Cade Douglas 9, Alex Cowgill 2, Carson Aycock 2. FG 18 FT 17-32 F 18. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none.)