Defense fuels Prairiland to 47-43 home win over Rains
After opening district play with just one win and four losses, the Prairiland Patriots basketball team picked up a big win Friday night at home against Emory Rains, who previously topped the Patriots 57-27 in Emory earlier this season. Fueled by early defensive activity and energy, the Patriots were able to overcome multiple second efforts from the visiting Wildcats and secured a key 47-43 win in Pattonville. With the win, Prairiland (12-7, 3-4) pulled to within a game of the final playoff spot in the district.
“We kind of got spanked when we went down to their (Rains) place. It was a holiday game and no one played right — it was pretty rough,” Prairiland senior Ryan Butler said. “When they came back here, no one really expected us to win, but we knew it was possible and could be done. This win got us back into the playoff race. Prairiland is usually underestimated with the preseason picks at the beginning of each season, and this should give us momentum going into Chisum.”
The leadership provided by the seniors was a key aspect of the win throughout the season. Even though Prairiland recently held a 1-4 district record, the team did not waver as it put together one of its best efforts on the court when it was needed the most.
“My seniors stepped up tonight. At times it has been rocky, but they stepped up and provided leadership,” Patriots head basketball coach Steven Weddle said. “Guys off the bench provided good minutes and I made a lineup change and put Butler back into the lineup. The thing about Ryan Butler, when other people get all down, mad, and selfish about not being in the starting lineup, he worked harder. That showed tonight.”
Prairiland showed a sense of urgency from the opening tip as it charged forward to an early 9-2 lead, capped off by a fast break layup from Butler with 5:16 left in the first quarter. Active hands from the Patriots on defense, good anticipation, and making it a half-court game outside of their own transition opportunities often led to steals and high-percentage scoring opportunities for Prairiland. Furthermore, the team seemed to establish an identity for itself which is encouraging to Weddle.
“We’ve been working on a game plan for them all week since we had a bye. We thought we could extend our defense a little bit and give them some problems since they rely a lot on their transition game. We got a lot of steals early and I think it really set the tone early,” Weddle said. “This is a big win. We have continued to turn things around and no one else in the district may believe the score when they see it, but no one knows what I know about these guys. They really showed what they could do. That was grit and determination out there. That’s why we’ve won 12 games and why we will continue to win more.”
“If you can slow someone down and make it a halfcourt game, you can control the pace and momentum while still being able to score,” Butler said. “Mason (Day) has been going to work in the paint and has been a big-time scorer for us. If we get a bunch of ball movement, it will open up the middle, and Mason and I can usually capitalize on those shots.”
Defense has been a part of this year’s program since each of the players first began playing together. With that, the Patriots were reminded of how essential and beneficial playing quality defense is in relation to team success.
“We’ve always been the type of team where defense leads to offense, back to when we played together in junior high,” Patriots senior guard Eli Rolen said. “We live and die by our defense, and we know it is a commitment, but we know it leads to good offense. If you buckle down and work hard on that end, then you get easy opportunities on offense. It’s a big momentum changer. Whether you draw a charge, get a steal, or block a shot, you get the ball back after that and it can change the game.”
The visiting Wildcats overcame Prairiland’s initial surge to pull within 13-10 at the end of the first quarter and wrestled the Patriots for possession of the lead up until intermission came, where the teams entered the locker rooms tied at 25-all.
Then, Prairiland started the second half just as well as they did in the first half. The Patriots slipped ahead 31-25 on a 6-0 run to open the quarter and were able to nurse that lead through the end of the game. Momentous charges and clutch free throws made all the difference for Prairiland in crunch time as it held on for the four-point victory.
Butler led Prairiland with a team-high 11 points while senior Brylee Galloway added 8 points. Jeremiah Harrison scored 7 points and Rolen contributed with 6 points. Blake Ballard, Mason Day, and Braydan Nichols each chipped in with 4 points while Brooks Morrison finished with 3 points.
The Patriots will play again at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at their district rival Chisum Mustangs. For more sports coverage, click here.